Sunday , June 24, 2018 - 12:00 AM
Washington D.C. is so much more than the capital of our country. It is a setting of justice, a memorial of liberty and a center for equality.
The monuments, documents, buildings, artifacts and more that make up this amazing place intertwine pieces of history to demonstrate what the United States of America strives to be and become.
I had the incredible opportunity to visit Washington D.C. with my family a few weeks ago. The center of D.C., of course, is the National Mall, which spans 146 acres and includes national monuments, museums and more.
We have all heard about the “biggest and best” things to see in D.C.: the White House, the Washington Monument, the Declaration of Independence, and so on. And while those were things everyone should definitely experience, it was also amazing to visit some of the lesser-known or talked about sites, including some not on the National Mall.
Here are a few of my highlights:
• The Jefferson Memorial: Maybe it was because we spent some time in my government class talking about this one, but the legacy that Thomas Jefferson left on the nation is clearly felt in this historic monument. Quotes about religious freedom, independence, equality and liberty surround a 19-foot bronze statue of the third U.S. president.
I think this monument is not as publicly praised as others because of how far it is from the other major features, but this separation from the rest of the Mall creates a welcome sense of peace and dignity, especially as the memorial overlooks a beautiful reservoir called the Tidal Basin.
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• The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial: Also overlooking the Tidal Basin, this monument was definitely not one I had known about or was expecting. The entrance to the memorial is a path cut through a sculpted mountain, and the missing piece stands a little ways away, bearing a statue of King emerging from the stone.
A quote that clearly defines what this civil rights leader stood for is engraved on the side: “Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” There was certainly a hope and power felt throughout this memorial.
• The Metro: So, this isn't exactly a destination, but it's not every day that you get to ride buses and trains to get wherever you want to go — especially as a teenager in Morgan County, Utah. Riding the Metro made it so easy to get to all parts of D.C., and it was fun to figure out which lines and stops and trains we needed to use. It was also kind of crazy to head underground, get on a train and suddenly find yourself in a brand new place.
• The National Zoo: Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! I saw these animals and more at the National Zoo, a park completely free of charge and managed by The Smithsonian. After walking around seeing statues and stone all day, it was fun to experience a different part of our world.
Truth be told, the zoo did kind of ruin the Museum of Natural History for me because the fake animals there paled in comparison to the living versions I had seen earlier.
• Arlington National Cemetery: This was a destination I was looking forward to because it brought another perspective of D.C. and our nation in general. This cemetery contains more than 400,000 graves of veterans and other honorable people, and it was incredible to look out over a span of grass and trees and see specks of white headstones far into the distance.
Also inspiring was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a tomb and other gravesites of unidentified soldiers from World Wars I and II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Since 1948, a guard has watched over this resting place 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Seeing the ceremony for the changing of the guard was very solemn, empowering, and, quite simply, incredible. To me it demonstrated the dignity and honor of the United States.
These are just of few of the many wonderful things to experience in Washington D.C. I could go on for ages talking about every single thing I saw and enjoyed. (Did I mention I saw Abraham Lincoln’s famous hat? Pretty cool.)
In all seriousness, this trip taught me that America has certainly had its flaws and challenges —- and it still does. But the fact that we value those who have spoken out for equality and died for liberty shows that the foundation of freedom our country was created on still exists today.
So, if you’re looking for an amazing vacation full of history and excitement, or maybe you need some renewed faith in America, Washington D.C. is the place for you. You’ll be glad you went, just like I am!
Haley Bess is a recent graduate of Morgan High School. She enjoys writing, singing and acting. Contact her at email@example.com.
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