We spent a few days last week in Washington, DC—appropriate in advance of one of my favorite holidays.
Visiting all the monuments, the museums, and the attractions in our capitol in three days challenges even the most fit, which I am not. So we took advantage of a “hop on and hop off” bus tour that hits the highlights—and lets the rider choose where to alight and how long to stay. Another bus comes along within 30 (maybe 40 or 45) minutes to carry you to the next place of interest.
The Smithsonian museums, especially the Air and Space and Natural History venues, occupied us—Pat, my daughter Stacey and grandsons Aaron, Hunter and Walker—for several hours. But I found three monuments –Jefferson, Lincoln, and Martin Luther King—and one exhibit—The Holocaust Museum—to be the most inspiring. A ranger at the Lincoln Memorial put it in perspective for me. He explained to Aaron, Hunter and me that the three monuments form a line—Jefferson to Lincoln to King.
“Jefferson got it started,” he said. “Lincoln moved it along and Martin Luther King got it almost across the goal line.” He was talking about liberty, of course. I felt a deep sense of appreciation for what each of those three men did to advance the cause of freedom. I am awed by their courage, their intellect, and their persistence.
I was reminded of how dear liberty is to all of us by the World War II and the Viet Nam War memorials. Freedom does not come cheap and cannot be presumed. Both the Lincoln and the MLK monuments remind us how costly it can be to gain and keep freedom.
Don’t walk by the quotations engraved on the walls of these museums. These thoughts show how our government was born, maintained and preserved.
The Holocaust Museum reminds us just how precious our freedom is, how tenuous it can be, and how important it is that we recognize and challenge any action that would limit the liberty of any citizen. The Holocaust Museum can be a gut-wrenching experience. It tears at you, challenges you to consider what should be beyond comprehension, and reminds you that the evil that precipitated that carnage still exists.
Even a quick trip to Washington is enough to remind us of our heritage. Riding by the White House, the Capitol Building, the National Archives and other monuments and government buildings should inspire us to recognize how fortunate we are to live in the United States of America. We crowded into the National Archives just before the building closed for the day for a few seconds’ glance at the original U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights—the foundation of our democracy. The signatures have faded a bit over the past 200 and more years. The message remains unblemished. Liberty is to be cherished.
It’s also important to note that the words “We the People,” stand out, large and bold, at the top of The Constitution, a reminder that it is our duty to protect and defend the freedoms we hold dear. It also should prod us to continue to seek the “More Perfect Union,” that was the objective of those brave men who signed that first Declaration and created The Constitution and The Bill of Rights, as well as all those who have fought and died to preserve it.
Our history shows progress, but also that we have more to do. We the people are free to strive to come nearer to that perfect union.