The National Mall in Washington is our nations showplace. Its intended to be that centerpiece that we share with millions of our fellow Americans who flock to the capital each year, as well as with tens of thousands of foreign tourists who are drawn to see this Great Republic. I had the honor of taking two young New Zealanders on a trek around the Mall earlier this week. I always enjoy sharing our great monuments with friends new and old. Dr. Sam Bloore and his wife, Julia, were my guests.
I was, frankly, embarrassed by the mess on the Mall. Not just the trash left over, but the torn-up, boarded-up, barricaded mess that theyve made of this great public space.
Everywhere there are Jersey walls, chain-link fences, ugly signs, plastic orange cones.
Is it the fault of this administration? Frankly, yes, it is. I know, I know. People will say that President Obama is hard-pressed. Hes busy driving the unemployment from 9.1% to 9.2%. Hes got three wars where hes trying to lead from behind [their phrase]. Hes heavily engaged in evolving on marriage. Apparently, a 41% out-of-wedlock birthrate is not high enough to produce enough low-income voters who will share the wealth around, so hes working hard to repeal welfare reform and make marriage a total irrelevance.
Cant you conservatives give the poor man a break? Arent you being too partisan?
Not really. It was Democrat Harry Truman, after all, who kept a sign on his desk in the Oval Office: The Buck Stops Here. After 800 days of this administration, however, it is the President of China who keeps a sign on his desk: Your Bucks Stop Here.
When President Reagan took office, the economy was in shambles, too. Fifty-two Americans had been held for 444 days, released only on the day he took the oath. The Soviets were running amok in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Reagan delivered his Inaugural Address from the West Portico of the Capitol, looking out over the magnificent Mall. It was clear and clean, as stern as those days were.
Ronald Reagan made a point of sprucing up our national parks, restoring our sense of civic pride in being Americans. He never bowed to foreign despots. Jimmy Carter had ordered our military not to wear their uniforms in the nations capital. Ronald Reagan required them. The Statue of Liberty was completely refurbished on Reagans watch. He was proud to preside in 1986 over the re-lighting of the torch held high by the Lady in the Harbor.
Once you get past the Jersey walls, there is still a lot to appreciate on the Mall. At the World War II Memorial, Julia Bloore shared with me stories of her grandfathers. One, a Hollander, had to endure Nazi occupation. The other, one of New Zealands always brave solders, became a prisoner of war of the Germans. The experience broke his health. I told these young friends about my dad, how he survived being torpedoed by a German U-boat. These family experiencesthese tributes to our fathersbring us together.
The World War II Memorial has a somber but beautiful display of 4,300 bronze stars arrayed above a reflecting pool. There, my Kiwi friends delicately asked me why it was the United States had waited so longuntil December 7, 1941to enter the Second World War. New Zealand, like Australia, Canada, and South Africa, had declared war on Germany when Britain did, in September, 1939.
I pointed out those stars. Each one represents one hundred American fighting men who laid down their lives in the war. That is mute testimony to why Americans hate war and why we honor those who sacrifice so much for our freedom. Today, hundreds of World War II veterans come to the WWII Memorial, many of them moved to tears. There were twelve million of them then. They are passing on to the last muster at the rate of thousands each day.
At the Jefferson Memorial, we took time actually to read the words engraved on the wall God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.
The full quote goes on: gave us liberty at the same time. Jefferson did not think it was above his pay grade when life and liberty are endowed. Maybe thats why President Obama keeps saying we are all born equal with inalienable rights, but never mentions Who it is who endows us with those rights. Jefferson had no trouble acknowledging the divine Author of our liberties.
You can get to the Lincoln Memorial from the Jefferson only with difficulty. But its worth the effort. I read the familiar words carved into the stone wall with new solemnity this year: Our Fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation... Will the assault on marriage, the merciless attack on the very notion of fatherhood, make this sentence from the Gettysburg Address incomprehensible to future generations?
The Washington Monument should be first in any tour of the Mall. It was for us. We could not go up to the 555-foot summit. You had to wait until 8 pm for a ticket to ride.
Thats an encouraging note. Washington still commands our respect. I pointed out an aluminum pyramid that tops the Washington Monument. On its East front is engraved Laus Deo. Praise the Lord!
By law, no building in the capital can be as tall as the Washington Monument. That means that the first rays of each mornings sun strike the words Praise the Lord.
I told the New Zealanders about Christopher Hitchens. Hes the British Marxist who became a naturalized American citizen. Ann Coulter points out that liberals loved Hitch when he wrote a book attacking Mother Teresa, hated him when he wrote a book attacking Bill Clinton. But now, all is forgiven. Hitch wrote a book attacking God.
Standing beneath the Washington Monument, you know this is the wrong country to come to if you want a career as an atheizer. A days tour of the monuments reinforces your belief that this country has been blessed by God, and has sought His protection from the beginning. Laus Deo!