Friday, July 14, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.: THE REFLECTING POOL AND TIDAL BASIN MONUMENTS, PART 2

We left the Jefferson Memorial and continued clockwise around the Tidal Basin.
Our next stop was the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. It was dedicated in 1997 by President Bill Clinton. It's distinguishing feature for me was its sprawling layout. It covers 7.5 acres! I kept expecting to come to the end of it, but then there would be another section. Of course, it does have to cover the longest presidency in U.S. history--12 years. The basic format is four "rooms," one for each of FDR's terms.

One especially cool thing about the FDR Memorial is that it is completely wheelchair accessible--a nod to FDR's disabiity.

FDR was known for his pithy statements, and many of them are engraved on the walls of his memorial, such as this one that reads, "The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith."




This one states, "The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man or one party or one nation...it must be a peace which rests on the cooperative effort of the whole world."

Wow. That's an ideology that seems completely foreign in today's political climate.
Next to that quote is a statue of Eleanor Roosevelt--the only First Lady honored at a Presidential memorial. Eleanor stands next to the seal of the United Nations, to which she was the first delegate from the United States:

More FDR quotes: "Unless the peace that follows recognizes that the whole world is one neighborhood and does justice to the whole human race, the germs of another world war will remain as a constant threat to mankind."

We moved from one "room" to another:

I found the many quotes very inspiring, and even more so now that I have time to ponder their current relevance.

"More than an end to war, we want an end to the beginnings of all wars."

"We have faith that future generations will know that here in the middle of the twentieth century, there came a time when men of good will found a way to unite, and produce, and fight to destroy the forces of ignorance, and intolerance, and slavery, and war."

And there's Franklin himself, his cloak draped so that it [controversially] obscures his wheelchair, attended by his faithful Scottish terrier Fala. The words on the wall behind him are, "They who seek to establish systems of government based on the regimentation of all human beings by a handful of individual rulers, call this a new order. It is not new and it is not order."

"I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded... I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed... I have seen children. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war."

There are five major water features in the monument.  The quote next to one that looks like a multi-layered waterfall is "I propose to create a civilian conservation corps to be used in simple work... More important, however, than the material gains will be the moral and spiritual value of such work."


Another "room" focuses on the Great Depression:


Five men wait in line at a soup kitchen:

Or is it TEN people in line?

To the left of the soup kitchen line is an elderly couple. They look like impoverished farm workers. The quote in between them and the soup kitchen line states, "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."

Another statue shows a man listening to news on the radio. I love this one because someone gave us a reproduction of a radio that looked just like this as a wedding gift, and we used it for years:

A few more currently relevant quotes: "I never forget that I live in a house owned by all the American people, and that I have been given their trust."

"Among American citizens there should be no forgotten men and no forgotten races."

One of Franklin's most famous quotes: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

"Men and nature must work hand in hand. The throwing out of balance of the resources of nature throws out of balance also the lives of men."

Hey! There's the Washington Monument (again). Imagine seeing it here!

Next up, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, which opened in the summer of 2011.  King was the first African American and the fourth non-President to be honored on the National Mall.

Compared to the FDR Memorial, the MLK memorial is very simple. The dominant feature of the memorial, and boy is it dominant, is this 30-foot-tall granite sculpture called the Stone of Hope. It references a line from King's "I Have a Dream" Speech: "Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope."



The two granite pieces behind King's image represent the "mountain of despair."

The Inscription Wall behind the MLK statue is 450 feet long and has fourteen quotes from King's speeches. Like the FDR Memorial, the MLK Memorial includes some of the famous orator's most poignant words. This first one states, "We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it tends toward justice."

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly."


"I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits."

"It is not enough to say, 'We must not wage war.' It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace."

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

"We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience."

We moved on to the Korean War Veterans Memorial, dedicated by President Bill Clinton and Kim Young Sam, the President of South Korea, on July 27, 1995, the 42nd anniversary of the end of the Korean War 

One part of it the memorial is this 164-foot-long granite wall covered 2,500 with eerie, shadowy faces:


Another part is this platoon of nineteen men moving warily through the heavy undergrowth of juniper bushes, which recreate a sense of the rough North Korean terrain:


The men are wearing rain gear and packing guns, radios, and other equipment and seem to be peering about rather fearfully.

Fourteen of the soldiers represent the U.S. Army, three are Marine Corps, one is Navy, and one is Air Force. I assume that equals the proportion of participation in the war by the different branches of the military. Each steel statue is over seven feet tall and is unique in clothing, face, and pose:

I was unprepared for the impact this memorial had on me. I found myself tearing up as I looked at these young men, each someone's brother, husband, father, or son:


While we were there, there was a man walking around the memorial who was carrying an American flag and a barbell. It was a little bizarre. I would like to know his story:



The Korean War began a decade before I was born, and I know very little about it, but I found these inscriptions especially moving:






Our next stop was the Lincoln Memorial, one of the best-known and most-loved monuments in Washington, D.C., and a particular favorite of mine.

This view of the Washington Monument will always remind me of the movie Forrest Gump:


While I enjoy the Greek-style building with its massive Doric columns, what I and thousands of other tourists come to see is the man inside. As we drew closer, he began to come into view:



I didn't see a sign like this at the other monuments, but for some reason it really seems to belong here:

I just couldn't get enough of this solitary figure caught up in some personal reverie unknown to the many people milling busily about at his feet. Daniel Chester French's statue measures 19 feet from the top of Lincoln's head to his feet. If he were standing, he would be 28 feet tall, an appropriate height for a larger-than-life man:

Inscribed on the inside walls of the building are the poignant words he delivered at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863 . . .

 . . . and the Second Inaugural Address, which Lincoln delivered on March 4, 1865, just 42 days before his assassination:

Above Lincoln's head are the words: "In this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever."

I don't know what it is about this sorrowful, tragic liberator, but I think I've become slightly obsessed.

Judging by the crowd, I'm not alone.

Onward.

Our next stop was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. By the time we got there, the sun had set and the light was being absorbed by the night sky. My pictures didn't benefit much from the low light.

There are three parts to the memorial. The first part, the wall of 58,318 names of the dead and missing, stretches almost 500 yards and is sunken into the ground so that the top is at ground level. It was built in 1983 after a contest for the design was won by 21-year-old Yale design student Maya Lin. She has since had an outstanding career and has designed many more monuments, including the Civil Rights Monument in Montgomery, Alabama, which we saw in 2014.

Viewers see themselves reflected in the polished black stone:

There is a directory that gives the location of each name on the wall, which greatly simplifies the task of finding one's loved one:

My maiden name is much less common than my married name, and I found one soldier who bore it: 

Although it has been about 45 years since American troops were pulled out of Vietnam, visitors still leave flags, flowers, and notes at the bottom of the wall near the names of those loved ones, and the mementos are also reflected in the wall:



One end of the wall points to the Lincoln Memorial, and the other points to the Washington Monument:

Unfortunately, the long black wall was very controversial when it was built. Some called it "a black gash of shame," and many saw it as not being "heroic." As a compromise, a more traditional bronze sculpture was commissioned to be placed near the wall. Called "The Three Servicemen," it includes an African-American, a European-American, and a Hispanic-American:


The Women's Memorial, honoring the women (primarily nurses) who served in Vietnam, was added in 1993. It depicts three women in uniform, one of them holding and gazing down at a wounded soldier.

The composition made me think of Michelangelo's Pieta:

Another nurse is looking towards the heavens, and the third is on her knees (perhaps praying?). Whether or not the sculptor intended to make this is religious piece, it definitely had a spiritual feel for me:

As we headed back to our parked car, we encountered one last memorial, a golden flaming sword held aloft by a hand tightly grasping its hilt:

The words "To Our Dead" are inscribed on the base. I had no idea this memorial to the 2nd Infantry Division that helped defend Paris during World War I existed.

We also caught a glimpse--but only a glimpse--of the most famous residence in the United States:

1 comment:

  1. You do such a good job - I've learned a lot just from reading your post about. Love the Forrest Gump clip.

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