We are all suffering from “political overload” and don’t worry, I am not going to comment on the recent elections. However, in reading and watching all the media coverage, I was reminded of a recent trip to our nation’s capital city. This vacation really brought into perspective for me that the Constitution and the democracy in which we live is so much more than the politicians of the moment.
I was truly wowed by our nation’s capital — in particular the stunning layout and the gracious memorials — especially the Lincoln Memorial which moved me to tears and was so much better than any view of it in photographs or movies. The whole city rivaled, and for me surpassed, the best of any European capital city, including London, Paris and Rome. As a “Jefferson groupie,” I also made sure that we spent quite a lot of time at his memorial. And after three days, even I with my love of history began to suffer from “monument overload” as the sheer volume is humbling and dizzying.
The cliché that you can stay a month in D.C. and still not see everything is of course true, but our short time there was a wonderful introduction to this fantastic city. There are no charges for entry into the museums and memorials and as our long-planned trip happened to take place just before my citizenship interview and ceremony in Atlanta, it was even more emotional for me (not to mention useful study for the historical part of the citizenship test).
We were highly amused by the D.C. license plates that said “Taxation without Representation” because the District of Columbia is a federal district, not a state, so their delegate does not have full voting representation in Congress.
While we have plans to return to D.C. to revisit some of the highlights, spend quality time in the Smithsonian and visit the Washington Monument, which is currently closed due to earthquake damage, we did make time for the war memorials, including an incredible morning spent at the Arlington National Cemetery. The rows and rows of headstones across this famous military cemetery’s 624 acres dating from the time of the Civil War was a sobering sight.
I was interested to see that one of only two equestrian monuments in the cemetery honors a British Field Marshal — Sir John Greer Dill. He was sent to Washington, D.C., during the second World War and died there in November 1944. Because of his close friendship with U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall, he was given permission to be buried at Arlington.
The respect for our history and the vital role of the brave men and women who fought and died for our freedom are very evident in D.C. The fact that “Freedom is Not Free” was very clear and while it is hard to say which memorial was the most sobering, two linger vividly in my memory. The first is the iconic Iwo Jima statue — the Marines raising the American flag during World War II’s Pacific campaign. The second is the Vietnam War Memorial — the walls inscribed with the seemingly endless list of casualties, crowded with visitors in wheelchairs or stooped with age finding the names of family and friends.
Of course, a short column can never do justice to such a place as our nation’s capital, but I will leave you with the words of our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, who as everybody knows was tragically assassinated in D.C. at the Ford Theater in 1865. He is famous for many stirring speeches but one of my favorite quotes is, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”
God bless America!
Lesley grew up in London, England, and moved to Richmond Hill in 2009. She can be contacted at email@example.com or www.lesleyfrancispr.com.