The Fourth of July always inspires me. I do tend to pause and feel very appreciative of the freedoms we’re blessed with. Lee Greenwood’s singing of “God Bless the USA” still brings a lump to my throat.
All of this is even a little more significant to me after my experience a few months back.
I asked my daughter how she wanted to spend her first college spring break—last summer. She said she’d like to spend it in Washington, D.C. with the family. So we purchased airline tickets and made plans early—in the event she might change her mind later in the year. She wanted to see Congress and the monuments. We had “been there, done that” when she was seven years old, but she couldn’t remember much from that earlier trip.
We did it all: toured the White House; toured Arlington Cemetery and watched the changing of the guard; went to Congress and watched our congressman, Ray LaHood, vote. We visited the Irish Embassy and shook hands with the Prime Minister of Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day. (At that point, my daughter called her friends, who were on the beach at South Padre Island: “You will never believe….”)
And the monuments. If you think you’ve seen them, try an early morning walk when you’re the only one there. The Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Wall, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the National WWII Memorial—when you’re alone in those areas, it’s a very moving experience.
Yet for all that, our favorite was the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial. It’s nothing short of stirring. Yes, we all know the history: Roosevelt guided this country through the Great Depression and World War II. And we know his most famous quotes: “This Generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny…” and “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
The memorial (http://www.nps.gov/fdrm) is an open-air, meandering path through open-walled rooms of granite, waterfalls, and statues—the most striking of which is five men standing in a breadline of the 1930s.
I can’t remember any exhibit or memorial that gave me such a feeling of the times. It was like history coming alive before your eyes. You reluctantly leave the memorial feeling you knew Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt personally.
Interspersed throughout the exhibit are 21 quotes from Roosevelt—even some he prepared but died before delivering. It was impossible to pass one quote without reading it, and reading each one heightened anticipation for the next one.
• “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
• “No country, however rich, can afford the waste of its human resources.”
• “We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred, is a wedge designed to attack our civilization.”
• “More than an end to war, we want an end to the beginnings of all wars.”
• “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.”
History books tell us Roosevelt was larger than life. His memorial enhances that image. Like the other memorials, Roosevelt’s will make you proud to be an American. They will make you feel like you did on September 11. Like you did the night the U.S. Olympic hockey team beat the Russians.
It would be good if we could all feel that way…at least every Fourth of July.
God Bless the U.S.A. IBI