January 22, 2014

Project DC: MLK Memorial

There's something very cool about living in DC when a new memorial is erected. In a city with so much history and so many recognizable, timeless monuments, I take it a bit for granted that tributes to important pieces of our nation's history are all around us. When the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial was unveiled in 2011, it was a reminder that there are still so many stories to tell, and Dr. King's legacy is surely an essential part of our nation's history and future. 

I had driven past the memorial so many times in the past couple of years, usually catching a glimpse from the passenger seat of a friend's car, but I hadn't yet paid a proper visit to its little nook alongside the Tidal Basin. The hubs and I decided it would be appropriate to check it out during MLK Day weekend, and we did just that.

After passing between two sculpted boulders, we walked along the sides of the memorial, silently reading the quotes chosen to represent MLK's legacy. The hubs impressively knew each speech from which the excerpts had been taken, and he pointed out that the inclusion of a statement against the Vietnam War was a bold choice-- Dr. King was a beacon for civil rights, but people sometimes forget that his message of peace sometimes was in opposition to our government's stances on various matters, particularly the war. The FBI even wiretapped him with approval from then-Attorney General RFK, trying to discredit him and prove him to be an adulterer and a Communist. Can you believe it? It's easy to whitewash Dr. King's history, but I think that remembering exactly what he was up against is crucial in appreciating how much he contributed to the civil rights and anti-war movements. 

The figure of MLK emerges from another giant granite boulder. While I must admit that this style is vaguely reminiscent of Soviet-era statues I once saw in Budapest, more than anything, it makes a powerful statement. He is such a massive figure, and the many tour groups that gathered at the base of the monument all looked up at his determined expression in awe. It's a very impressive presence, and its location along the Tidal Basin also makes it very beautiful. I can imagine how gorgeous (and crowded!) it must be in the spring with cherry blossoms in bloom. 

I'm glad that we visited the MLK Memorial, especially on that weekend. As with so many of the DC spots I am visiting, I wish that I had gone sooner, but more than anything, I feel so happy that I made the trip downtown to enjoy it. The hubs has pointed out that even if we don't make it to all of the museums and monuments on my list before we one day leave the DC area, we can always return, especially if we have little ones! I do have to keep that in mind... but honestly, there's something special about taking in the sights of the city while DC is still my city. There's something comforting and exciting about knowing that these treasures are just a few metro stops away and that at the end of the day, we get to back home to rest our tired feet. So yes, it's okay to save some sightseeing for future years. But until then, I'll just keep on soaking up powerful, memorable places like this one. 

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Want to read more about having fun in DC? Follow along as I embark on Project DC:

2. Go for a leisurely hike in Rock Creek Park.
3. Go on a White House tour.
6. Take a day trip to Annapolis.
7. Go to the Newseum.
8. Go back to Jazz in the Garden when it starts up again in the spring.
9. Go to the Holocaust Museum.
11. See the FDR Memorial.
13. Go to the National Portrait Gallery.
14. Go to the Corcoran.
15. Visit the Vietnam Memorial.
17. Go to more embassy events.
19. See the drum circle at Malcolm X Park.
20. Mini golf at H Street Country Club.
21. Evening drinks at POV.
22. Visit the National Archives.
24. Walk through the National Arboretum.
25. Visit the MLK Memorial.
26. Go to the Jefferson Memorial.