My first visit to Washington D.C. had been nearly 20 years ago, but the experience of seeing the Hope Diamond and First Ladies’ inaugural ball gowns stayed with me all of these years. Friends and acquaintances who have lived in this city loved the abundance of activities and sites to explore and continually share their enthusiasm for the area. Learning I would be re-visiting this city for Arts Advocacy Day, I was eager to arrive and explore every inch of Washington D.C. While photos of the memorials and monuments along the National Mall and Memorial Parks can be seen just about anywhere, seeing them in person is what makes a stronger impact.
War Memorials: Vietnam Veterans, Korean War Veterans, & World War II
Walking along the pathway of each of these memorials is a reminder of the hardships faced by those involved in each of these wars. Discussing war is always intertwined with politics, but at these memorials, I didn’t think of politics this time. Instead, I focused on the meaning behind the sculpture and architecture. I thought about what it might be like if I were fighting in a war and remembered that not every aspect of war is black and white. When it comes to conflict, there are not always straightforward answers. Even though I know I’m idealistic, I always want to strive for peace, but it’s not always an easy path to reach that ideal. These memorials were a reminder to me of the people who become engulfed in the situation during a war. We may think of the fighting, battles, and attacks, but we forget about the people. We must never forget them.
Historical Memorials and Monuments
While there are many monuments now in honor of historical figures, the two that resonated with me were those of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. Both stood for ideas that were not popular during their time and many argued over their advocacy for abolition and equal rights. Their perseverance stood out in my mind, especially because it can be easy to give up when times are difficult. Their actions ask the complicated question: “When is it time to act and how should we act?” Some chose protestations, others choose radical action. Is there ever a direct answer for every situation? I’m not always certain there is, but like the war memorials, it’s a reminder that actions and paths are not simple or easy and sometimes the difficult ones are necessary.
Although I missed the ball gowns this visit, I’m glad I made time to visit these memorials and monuments. Their presence in Washington D.C. is an important part of remembering the people behind the stories. Others may have a different reaction than mine, but it’s important to make sure you see them in person. Experiencing them with your own eyes will give you a different perspective.