On Friday June 26, ILF Fellows gathered at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to begin what would become a four-hour trek around the Tidal Basin to the monuments and memorials that mark the extraordinary trajectory of our nation since its founding.
We slowly made our way around the basin enjoying the peaceful evening and the lovely view of the sunset against the basin’s water. Fellows took turn introducing each monument/memorial and the legacy of the figure in whose memory they were established. Meandering through each, we read the inscriptions of phrases and speeches that depict, the “spirit of the time” in which each figure found himself – words that are now ingrained in our history as lessons and reminders of the past that continue to shape our nation today.
The Jefferson Memorial was the cause of much controversy as its construction entailed the removal of several cherry blossom trees where it was to be built. Many people chained themselves to the cherry trees in an attempt to prevent its construction.
Initially, the elevator was deemed unsafe, so only men were allowed to ride it; women and children had to climb all 897 steps.
The WWII Memorial was established to honor the 16 million Americans who served in the war, the civilians who supported the war efforts at home, and over 400,000 brave soldiers, who gave their lives to fight for freedom and democracy.
An engraving of Kilroy can be found on site.
The North wall of the monument is inscribed with President Lincoln’s second inaugural speech, while the South wall has an inscription of the Gettysburg address with a mural of an angel of truth emancipating a slave.
The Lincoln Memorial was the last of the monuments. Several blisters and mosquito bites later, the fellows came away from the tour exhausted but inspired by the brave men and women whose memory and legacy we continue to celebrate today. We look to those who have shaped our nation’s unique destiny and look forward to the day that we too can do the same.
by 2015 Fellow Jung-Ju Lee