Four memorials, two monuments, and two museums later, and I can officially express my gratitude for a place like Washington D.C.  What a marvel it is to preserve a vast amount of United States’ history in the same location – our nation’s capital. During our day trip to D.C. we visited the Smithsonian Museum of American History, third floor, west wing.

This is where the American Presidents and First Ladies are displayed. Or, should I say, this is where the accomplishments of the American Presidents are touted throughout the whole exhibit, and the dresses and china of the first ladies are displayed in an elegant manner. To be frank, there were a plethora of First Ladies with great achievements, especially those like Michelle Obama who became a national figure of social equality and justice; however, her achievements were not announced overhead. In fact, playing in the exhibit was ball-style music – graceful and poised as the First Ladies ought to be. Though Michelle’s and others were not praised for their accomplishments as First Ladies, they were glorified for their selection in plates and teacups, and inaugural gowns. Though interesting to see the styles change overtime, I would love to see more depth added to the Ladies’ room.

This does not mean that I am undermining the accomplishments of our great presidents, because I do believe a lot of credit should be given to those under the stress of running a nation and appeasing the majority of citizens. Their exhibit provides them with the justice that they deserve, the respect that they have earned. I wish we understood our First Ladies in the manner we understood our Presidents through museum displays however. And I did enjoy the historical accuracies of both of the exhibits.

After a stop for some pizza, it was time to visit the Presidential Portrait Gallery, an exhibit in the National Portrait Gallery. It was like taking a look at a yearbook – some of the presidents went with the traditional backgrounds (grey or dark blue) in their suits and ties, with lighting beaming at them dead on. Others, like George W. Bush decided a picture of him sitting on a couch in relaxed clothing was the most appropriate to display his power. Andrew Jackson went with the less traditional full body painting, which actually hangs just outside of the gallery. Each are a demonstration of the way that individual presidents want to be portrayed. A painting of Bill Clinton was a little wacky to say the least, but after watching him play with balloons at the finale of the DNC, I think it might sum Bill’s persona up quite nicely.

The National Portrait gallery is an expression of our history through great works of art, and is a must-do for every visitor of our nation’s capital! The National Mall monuments are a must as well! We took our first stop at the towering Washington monument followed by the World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial, Korean War Memorial, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument. All of these are such powerful expressions not only of what the individuals and soldiers did for their country, but for our own sense of connection and patriotism that is aroused by these constructions. As discussed in Dr. Walsh’s Plenary Lecture on the Parthenon last Friday, buildings are meant for the people who own them, and the people who come to see them. We are putting our best artifacts forth; here is who we are as a people, here is our strong history that supports us to this day, and here is our greatness.

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