A Morning Stroll
With one morning left to soak in D.C. before our afternoon flight back to LA, EZ and I joined our D.C. friends on a stroll through some beautiful neighborhoods. Charming row houses stood shoulder to shoulder like a proud group of friends. They ranged from austere brick to colorful Victorians, with stylish variations in between. These homes were surrounded by greenery: tree-lined streets and an abundance of green spaces, whether they were manicured parks complete with playgrounds and gardens or simply expansive verdant lawns. We passed adorable little cafes and shops, including a little bookstore with window displays of children’s books…about badass Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. AKA the Notorious RBG!
“Women will only have true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.” ~Ruth Bader Ginsburg
“America is known as a country that welcomes people to its shores. All kinds of people. The image of the Statue of Liberty with Emma Lazarus’ famous poem. She lifts her lamp and welcomes people to the golden shore, where they will not experience prejudice because of the color of their skin, the religious faith that they follow.” ~Ruth Bader Ginsburg
We ended our walk at Le Pain Quotidien, a little sidewalk café where we enjoyed breakfast on the outdoor patio. Then we caught an Uber to the Library of Congress.
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress just may be my favorite place in D.C. It is the keeper of knowledge. And what a lovely keeper it is.
The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the U.S. Despite this impressive status and its stately neoclassical architecture, the building’s colorful flowers and striking Neptune Fountain are playful and inviting.
The fountain has a lot going on. There’s the majestic Neptune, ruler of the sea, posing with all of his glorious musculature. Sea nymphs riding bucking stallions. Men blowing conches that spout water. Other water-spouting creatures, such as frogs, turtles, and serpents.
But the fun doesn’t stop there. Once inside the library, you will find even more to gaze upon in wonder. The Great Hall is adorned with gorgeous art from floor to ceiling.
I found one of the most fascinating parts of the Library of Congresst o be Jefferson’s Library. This area literally houses Thomas Jefferson’s collection of books. An avid reader, Jefferson had amassed the largest personal collection of books in the U.S. by 1814…and he sold them to Congress to replace its collection burned by the British during the War of 1812.
“An interesting treasure is added to your city, now become the depository of unquestionably the choicest collection of books in the U.S., and I hope it will not be without some general effect on the literature of our country.” ~Thomas Jefferson
I felt excited to walk among Jefferson’s books, which included many classic works of literature in addition to many texts on politics, economics, science, and various other subjects.
“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” ~Thomas Jefferson
Another stunning section of the Library of Congress is the Main Reading Room, a magnificent circular room that is not just a pleasure to behold, but a wealth of information. This place is the starting point for many researchers, whether they be Congress members, university researchers, novelists, or an average Joe off the street.
Don’t forget to look up at the embellished dome ceiling; at the timeworn clock featuring figures representing the zodiac, the seasons, and Father Time; at statues perched upon massive marble pillars, symbolizing religion, commerce, history, art, philosophy, law, and science.
The Library of Congress also features access to the Capitol Building via a tunnel. Our group wandered through the tunnel and into the visitor’s center of the Capitol, where we spent time the E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One) exhibition. This exhibition details the history of the Capitol and Congress through architecture models, original documents and artifacts, and interactive computer experiences. It was interesting to see how far we had come, physically, culturally, and legally.
EZ and I had time to cap off our trip with one last stop. We decided upon the Supreme Court, a judicious vision in white marble. Our group ascended large steps to the grand pillared portico.
Above the Corinthian columns, allegorical figures were carved into the marble.
The massive bronze doors are carved with their own significant scenes from legal history, symbolizing justice, the power of the law, and the development of law by scholars and advocates.
The Supreme Court was aptly named.
Once again, I felt the weight of history upon me. But I simultaneously felt the force of progress.
“Presidents come and go, but the Supreme Court goes on forever.” ~William Howard Taft
And on that powerful note, my trip to D.C. had ended. It was time to head to the airport.
The Future of America
During my trip to Washington D.C., the election campaign had still been underway. The cruelty and lunacy that emerged during the campaign season had a numbing effect on many Americans, stifling our civic pride and suppressing our faith in government.
While I hoped the misery of the campaign would end with the election, the results proved otherwise. I was shocked that America had elected as its President a fear-mongering egomaniac who cared only for himself and his sycophants.
But then I realized that many Americans were desperate for change. Though some of Trump’s followers are undoubtedly bigots, and continue to out themselves as such, there are also many who were struggling and tired of being ignored by the establishment…so they took a bet on the devil they didn’t know. Still, I wondered…what will become of America.
But then I took heart. As my trip to Washington D.C. reminded me, America has always been a country by the people, for the people. And this country has made mistakes before. It has had setbacks. But progress always prevailed. Our core principals of equality, liberty, and justice cannot die. The Founding Fathers set up the three branches of government for a reason: balance of power. And we the people are the arbiters of this power.
“The people are the only legitimate fountain of power, and it is from them that the constitutional charter, under which the several branches of government hold their power, is derived.”~James Madison
“The Founders recognized that Government is quite literally a necessary evil, that there must be opposition, between its various branches, and between political parties, for these are the only ways to temper the individual’s greed for power and the electorates’ desires for peace by submission to coercion or blandishment.” ~ David Mamet (American playwright, essayist, screenwriter, and film director)
If, under any president, the people feel our democracy is threatened…we have the power to effect change. Let us always remember our founding, and never forget our power.