A year ago today, I was on my last business trip, this one to Washington, D.C. My traveling companion, and co-worker, was from Dublin, so he wanted to see more than the White House and Washington Monument that we’d seen back in February. And, given the political state of things, I thought it would be good to show our institutions some love. They have survived Presidents, Congresses, wars, and economic depressions, and they will survive the turmoil in which we find ourselves now.
The United States Capitol building was beautiful, even under construction. The Visitor Center (under that glass at the front of the photo) is full of interesting displays. My favorite was the Statuary Hall section of the Visitor Center; each state, by law, can contribute two statues that illustrate their history and 25 of them are located here. From Helen Keller (Alabama) to King Kamehameha I (Hawaii) to Sarah Winnemuca (Nevada), it is a collection that shows the depth and breadth of American history.
This is the Library of Congress section where people research using books requested from the collection. Someday, I want to be one of those people sitting down there, researching something, just so I can sit in that hallowed space for a day and absorb the silence and wisdom that must permeate the air.
The Supreme Court building is rather understated compared to the massively decorated buildings around it, but I find this enhances its purpose, as stated in the carving visible to all: Equal Justice Under Law. Standing in front of this place, thinking of the history that took place on its steps and inside its walls, was humbling. From Brown vs. Board of Education to Obergefell v. Hodges, the decisions of the Supreme Court have helped define the country.
These institutions, and our government, don’t belong to a single party. They belong to us. Whether you’re Republican, Democrat, conservative or liberal, we all own them. It’s our heritage from the past, and our challenge in the present.
Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congress and government officials, but the voters of this country.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt