Location: Washington D.C.
General Description: Washington D.C. is full of monuments, memorials, and parks so time becomes the limiting factor. Most of the monuments and memorials consist of a statue and/or a building with inscriptions depicting the accomplishments and quotes from the individual or event being memorialized. Not being able to see it all in a single afternoon, we began with a visit to the major and best known monuments and memorials. We began with the outside view of the White House with its manicured lawns and trees. It is then a fairly long walk around the Ellipse to the most iconic monument, the George Washington Monument. Currently it is covered with a blue scaffolding due to damage from the earthquake last year, so access was limited to pictures from a safe distance. Directly to the west of the Washington Monument is the National World War II Memorial which is a beautiful fountain and carvings for the major events in the Pacific theater on the north side and European theater on the south side. Continuing west along the reflection pool is the impressive Lincoln Memorial with the famous much larger than life statue of Lincoln and anterooms filled with quotations. Turning south first brings you to the Korean War Veterans Memorial which commemorates the soldiers during the war as a series of bronze statues of a military patrol emerging from the jungle. Continuing south brings you to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial which includes both a statue of Dr King emerging from the stone and quotes made by and about his legacy. Making your way around the Tidal Basin east towards the Jefferson Memorial brings you first to the Franklin Delano Rossevelt Memorial which is a very impressive array of waterfalls, statues, and carved quotations of his many accomplishments over his lifetime. Next is the George Mason Memorial which is a simple memorial of a small pond and George Mason sitting on a parkbench. While not being one of the most well known founding fathers, the contributions of George Mason to the meaning of independence and definition of a democratic government were as important as the more well known founding fathers that became Presidents. Finally, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial is another larger than life statue (although not nearly as massive as Abraham Lincoln) with inscriptions of quotes from Mr. Jefferson. Below the statue is a small museum that provides displays of his life and is an air conditioned relief for a hot July afternoon.
1) Pictures you have seen of the White House are not nearly as impressive of seeing the building itself. It was humbling to know we were that close to President Obama and the center of the US Government.
2) The Washington Monument is a neat obelisk, even if it is covered with blue scaffolding which really makes it look strange. It was unfortunate that we were not able to get very close, but I hope they can repair the damage from the earthquake and be able to reopen the monument in the future. I found it hard to believe that they had originally decided not to repair the damage and simply close it.
3) The National World War II Memorial is stunning. The fountain in the center provides a beautiful backdrop to the marble walls and stairways to the north and south for both the Pacific and European theaters of the war. The major events depicted on the walls could take hours to study them all.
4) I had visited the Lincoln Memorial when I was in high school over 40 years ago, but I had forgotten how LARGE it is. Pictures of the memorial cannot do it justice. You feel like an ant amongst giants as you approach the building and the statue of Abraham Lincoln. From a tour that was going on while we walked up I learned that Lincoln is actually sitting on the American Flag. You have to look carefully, but you can make out a few stars on the left side and some of the stripes of the flag.
5) The Korean War Veterans Memorial was unique in that it depicted a platoon of men on patrol in Korea. Studying the gear each man was carrying and in some cases having to guess its purpose was interesting.
6) The Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial has received some criticisms, but I was very impressed. I liked the depiction of Dr. King emerging from the stone and the many inscriptions were inspiring. I was also impressed with the number of African-American citizens that were visiting the memorial and quietly talking in small groups.
7) The most surprising monument was the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. I never imagined it was so extensive! None of it is much over 10 feet high, but it must extend at least half a city block flowing in and out. Each indention depicts a different phase of President Roosevelt’s career with many quotes on a very wide range of topics from natural resources to the economy to the human condition. The multiple waterfalls created a white noise throughout the monument that made it a relaxing experience. We spent more time at this memorial than any other making one interesting discovery after another. I especially liked their depiction of World War II as the wall breaking from the pressure of the water with some of the stone blocks blown out into the walkway.
8) While I knew the name of George Mason as one of founding fathers, I did not know the extent of his influence on the Declaration of Independence or the definition of a democracy and how to organize the national government. Without a doubt we would be a very different nation without the contributions of George Mason. This is a simple monument, but one very worth seeing.
9) The Jefferson Memorial is impressive and I really like the open feeling of it as opposed to the Lincoln Memorial which just leaves you with a sense of awe. In particular I appreciated the air conditioned museum under the memorial as a welcomed break from a sunny July afternoon in D.C.
10) Obviously we will have to return again to D.C to see the other memorials as well as the Smithsonian Museums and it would be a good idea to choose a different time of year then the middle of July! Even then it made for a pleasant and informative afternoon and I would recommend spending at least an afternoon in remembrance of the history of our nation.