This past week, I was lucky enough to have spent three days in our nation’s capital on a Chorus trip and it was everything that I had hoped for. We visited the Holocaust Museum, the Smithsonian, Arlington Cemetery, the Lincoln Memorial, the War Memorials, and the MLK jr. Monument. We did not get to visit the Capitol Building or the White House, but I enjoyed our trip nevertheless.
Walking through the holocaust museum was probably the most solemn experiences- reliving the horrors of man’s inhumanity to man. What saddens me most is the silence of the United States, during a time when anti-immigration, anti-Catholicism, and anti-semitism was rampant with the 1928 Presidential Election of Herbert Hoover versus New York Governor, Al Smith and the refusal to port the SS Saint Louis.
For many, on their minds was the cruelty of Hitler’s policies but I was taken back by our ability to make a difference and our failure to do so until the end of the war because we had such isolationist policies in which I find selfish and disgusting. I firmly believe that America can be a force for good and when it has an opportunity to be it should be at every opportunity. As our communities become more globally minded, I think we should look to share our values with our global community. So when dictators rise, their demise is just as quick as their rise.
The Smithsonian American History Museum was rather lackluster and disappointing for me. I was really looking for an in-depth history of our political process and the progression of political thought in our nation which just wasn’t there. The Natural History Museum was fine and well if Science is your cup of tea. I was just not overall impressed with the museums I visited.
My favorite part of the my time was visiting Arlington Cemetery. Such a reverent ground. Throughout the duration of our tour, I felt a great sense of humility and gratitude remembering the men who gave their last full measure of devotion to ensure that this nation not perish from the Earth. That this American Experiment of self government might continue for generations. That their children might live in a freer world- in a safer world. That their children would inherit the Liberty they had come to enjoy. That their children would not have to fear oppressive governments.
I’ll admit it was rather chilly with great gusts of wind, but as I said to several of my friends, “I’ve got no right to complain about the cold, when what I’m feeling is equivalent to a minute iota of what these men gave that our nation might live.” I firmly believe that and I didn’t feel bad for putting them on the spot like that as we were there to remember and meditate upon their sacrifices. Certainly not to wallow in our own discomfort.
Nor was I ashamed to question, to myself this time, President Kennedy’s place there as I have a problem with his Presidency in general- concerning his affiliation with the mafias, his severe medical conditions and addiction to strong medications that could have impaired his judgement as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, along side his extramarital affairs that speak to his poor integrity and character as a leader.
We were fortunate enough to witness the changing of the guards at the tomb of the unknown soldier. What speaks volumes for me is that we honor all our dead, even those who we will never know by name. We let every foe know that our men and women are of the highest tier, of quality, of courage. What a way to honor our dead indeed.
Visiting the Lincoln Memorial certainly was not as powerful but its grandeur was certainly awesome. From the Great Emancipator to Tyrant, I’ve heard it all about President Lincoln, and in such a trying time there was no guidebook, no clause in the constitution to prevent the secession of states and I am thankful President Lincoln took all necessary actions to hold our Republic together at all costs. A United America created a safer world for generations to come thanks to Abraham Lincoln.
I also took a moment to stand where Reverend King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. Thinking about the powerful image of a civil rights leader standing before the memorial of the President who emancipated the slaves. Now make no mistake, emancipation was never intended to inspire social equality for blacks. You can see that clearly in speeches given by Lincoln on the issue of social equality but he recognized as many did, the degradation of slavery which was the first step towards social equality for the races.
We then walked to the Vietnam Memorial Wall that recognizes all the lives lost in the was we’ve fought over the years. It was emotional to see the overwhelming amount of names that just didn’t seem to end. To think that these men died so there may be peace someday, that freedom might carry on- humbled me and filled me with great gratitude.
Our last visit during our trip was to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial where once again I was personally awe inspired by the monument. Despite his personal struggles with infidelity, Dr. King inspired love and citizenship into the hearts of millions who encount him, walked with him, and who still carry his dream today. I’m not sure if we are any closer that that scene he described at the end of his speech with the children holding hands singing that old negro spiritual but I’d like to think that we’re closer. As I’ve said before, long term progress is more desirable than short term success.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in the DC area in the fellowship of my classmates and our choirs received the highest marks at the music festival we competed in and I’m glad that we got to experience the majesty and reverence of such a historic city that has been a shinning city upon a hill as John Winthrop called our great nation, as President Reagan called it.