Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Memorials in Washington

I will close out this series of posts about our trip to Washington, DC with a brief review of selected milestones in our nation's history by way of memorials on the National Mall and around the Tidal Basin immediately south of the Mall.

George Washington, hero of the American Revolution, was our nation's first president 1789-1797. He died in 1799, before the federal government moved to Washington in 1800 from its temporary home in Philadelphia, but he helped to plan the city that was named for him. The Washington Monument is by far the tallest structure in the city. George Washington was "First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."

Thomas Jefferson Memorial

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial honors the primary author of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and our nation's third president 1801-1809. Jefferson nearly doubled the size of the country in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase.

From the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

The Jefferson Memorial sits on the Tidal Basin in a straight line south from the White House and the Washington Monument.

Lincoln Memorial

While Washington and Jefferson helped to create a new nation, Abraham Lincoln helped keep it together. Lincoln was our nation's 16th president 1861-1865, the same years as the Civil War. Inside the Lincoln Memorial is a seated statue of Lincoln and the following inscription:

In this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.

Also inscribed in the memorial are the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address.

The Lincoln Memorial sits at the west end of the National Mall, facing the Washington Monument (approximately in the middle of the Mall) and the Capitol at the east end.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

The United States became a world power in the decades following the Civil War, yet did not avoid the global depression and war of the 1930s and 1940s. The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial honors our nation's 32nd president 1933-1945 who led the country during both the Great Depression and most of World War II. The words inscribed in the rock wall above are from Roosevelt's famous "Four Freedoms" speech in January 1941 before the United States entered the war.

Both the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial (below) sit on the Tidal Basin in line between the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials.

Three War Memorials

The World War II Memorial pays tribute to "the greatest generation" who lived and fought the greatest war the world has ever known. Some 16 million Americans served in World War II and more than 400,000 died. The photo above shows granite pillars and an arch arranged in a semicircle around a plaza and pool. The triumphal arch celebrates victory in the Pacific. Behind me was a similar semicircle and arch celebrating victory in the Atlantic.

Yet all was not peaceful following the end of World War II in 1945. A Cold War persisted between the Soviet Union and the United States, and soon led to two regional hot wars.

At the Korean War Veterans Memorial (above): "Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met." The Korean War was fought 1950-1953 and cost more than 36,000 American lives. The fighting ended with the signing of an armistice, but no peace treaty was signed.

At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Memorial Wall lists the names of more than 58,000 Americans who lost their lives in that conflict, and the "Three Servicemen Statue" (above) depicts three soldiers purposefully identifiable as European American, Hispanic American, and African American. The site also includes a Vietnam Women's Memorial dedicated to the American women who served in the Vietnam War, primarily as nurses. American involvement in Vietnam began in the 1950s, escalated dramatically in the 1960s, and ended when we left Vietnam in 1973. Saigon fell in 1975.

These three war memorials are located on the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial honors the legacy of perhaps the most prominent leader of the American civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. The statue shown above is called the Stone of Hope from a line in King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech: "out of the Mountain of Despair, a Stone of Hope."

Dr. King delivered the "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Dr. King spoke about the unfilled promise for citizens of color of both Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and Jefferson's Declaration of Independence:

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

Washington, DC Trip: Click here for the introductory post about our trip to Washington which lists all of the posts in this series.

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