The Surprises I Found in D.C.

It was my first trip to Washington D.C. and I had conjured up images of all things politics. However, the more time I spent in D.C. the more I was surprised by its true beauty and rich history that was hidden beneath the ugly reputation of political power.

I did not expect D.C. to be so full of beautiful green spaces, water features and beautiful architecture.

The National Mall was a sprawling park, ten times larger than I had imagined. People were spread out across the lawns having picnics, playing games and exercising. It turned out to be a peaceful place in the heart of a bustling city.

I was familiar with the various monuments in D.C. thanks to school textbooks but I had not considered how beautiful they would be up close and personal, not to mention how different they might look during daylight versus after nightfall.

The Lincoln Memorial and the National WWII Memorial were two of my favorite monuments that we visited during our time in the city.

Standing at the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King delivered one of the most iconic speeches in our country’s history evoked feelings of pride and shame at the same time. It was hard to believe that speech only occurred 50 years ago. I couldn’t imagine that within recent history there was such a level of hate and prejudice. At the same moment, it was reassuring and encouraging to know that one voice could bring so many together for positive change and equality.

Just yards away was the National WWII Memorial and it was absolutely magnificent during the evening. Along the ramp extending to the central fountain were stories etched into the walls. It was an extremely detailed pictorial of the time leading up to the war, during the war and after. There were illustrations of couples saying goodbye, factories producing machines and weapons, the front lines of the war, the Normandy landings and the joyous reuniting of soldiers and their families. It truly brought the memorial to life.

Prior to arriving in the national capital, I also knew that D.C. had a tremendous selection of top tier museums and being a museum-loving person I was excited to experience them for myself.

We decided to go to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and once again I was surprised by the deep feeling of remembrance and respect for those who helped the persecuted layered with disgust. Having been to the Anne Frank House, (what remains of) the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie, I knew the museum would be a reminder that there are very cruel people in this world, but I feel it’s important to support the organizations that strive to educate the public about these terrible events so that history cannot be repeated.

After the National Mall and Holocaust Memorial, we visited the Arlington National Cemetery. Its size, not to mention every story behind those that were laid to rest there, was unfathomable.

While many of the moments spent in D.C. were reflective of difficult times, the history of perseverance rang clear. Despite troubling times, natural beauty will always be present and there will be people to lock arms with and fight for humanity.

While we can only look back on the events that cannot be changed, we do have the ability to study the past so that when new social issues arise we are intelligent enough to stand up for what is right.