On a chilly March evening almost a decade ago, we strolled among monuments and historic buildings in and around the magnificent National Mall in Washington, D.C.
On a chilly March evening almost a decade ago, we strolled among monuments and historic buildings in and around the magnificent National Mall in Washington, D.C. Though we had visited the nation’s capital several times, this was our first time to gaze upon two of the newest memorials, the inspiring World War Two memorial commemorating what has been called the Greatest Generation, and the stunning statue of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one of the nation’s most inspiring leaders.
The sun was quickly setting, making the evening seem even more cold, and we were surrounded by concrete and stone that seems to hold in the chill. The lateness and temperatures also meant the usual crowds had largely dissipated.
The MLK statue, appropriately much larger than life, is strategically situated gazing out across the Tidal Basin directly at the memorial for Thomas Jefferson, whose words were among the most important in drafting the Declaration of Independence and Constitution – two documents for which King spent his life fighting for and ultimately for which he gave his life.
Many of King’s most important remarks are inscribed throughout the area, which was placed among the famed Washington cherry trees, that were just beginning to bud out and would erupt in full glory a few weeks later. It must have been a stunning spectacle.
I have long advocated that American school children should take a required field trip to Washington to get a first-hand view of this nation’s wonderful and at times troubling history. They should see the Star Spangled Banner in person and tour museums ranging from the National Museum of the American Indian to the National Portrait Gallery.
The trip would last a week and still give only a glimpse of the greatest democracy to ever be formed by mankind. It would be money well spent by school districts, the return on investment almost incalculable.
This week that same mall hosts the inauguration of our new president, Joe Biden. A day normally reserved for pomp and circumstance will no doubt be one of anguish as well for many following recent events, events that I hope do not reflect the true heart of our nation.
As that ceremony will occur after this is written and before you read this, I can only hope that it is as inspirational as the ceremony held in Mineola on Monday celebrating the life of MLK. Several speakers and singers reflected on a life that was too short but so well lived that he still inspires us more than a half century after his cruel death at the hands of a misguided gunman.
We walked away from the MLK memorial in D.C. inspired, much as we were inspired by the words and music emanating from the grounds of the Mineola Civic Center Monday.
As was acknowledged, we still have much work to do. But there is a clear path forward.
To quote another great orator of the 20th Century, “All you need is love.”