August 31, 2011, Washington, DC: I like places with a past, cities with history. But Washington is rare in that it possesses both a local history and a national one. Washington is the keeper of our national story. While there are times that gets annoying (ie, class trips clogging sidewalks), there are times we can appreciate our proximity to a fascinating storyline. We can appreciate stopping into a museum on a frigid winter morning, and we can appreciate summer nights like last night, when we took a jog down to our nation’s newest memorial, a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Forty-eight years ago, nearly to the day, Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Today his memorial is open just across Independence Ave. from Lincoln’s, in West Potomac Park. Those who have made it here despite last week’s earthquake and hurricane have been among the first to catch a glimpse of this impressive tribute.
This memorial is the second major addition I’ve seen open down here since moving to Washington. The opening of the National Museum of the American Indian on the Mall occurred shortly after my arrival here in the fall of 2004. Both openings illustrate a national story that continues to grow more inclusive and accepting. Their openings also remind us that there’s still space, still room down here to make history worthy of monuments.
“What I’m drawn to and moved by is historical Washington, or rather the presence of history almost anywhere one turns. It is hard to imagine anyone with a sense of history not being moved. No city in the country keeps and commemorates history as this one does.”
-David McCullough, “I Love Washington”