The National Constitution Center celebrates the idea that Americans can still come together to tackle national problems as a unified people. Unfortunately, that quaint notion puts it squarely at odds with more and more elements of the news media that dominate our public sphere today.
The time I visited the George Mason Memorial I stumbled across it almost completely by accident. If there was ever a memorial in Washington, DC that seems like it was intended to be hidden from view, this is it. Just as well it’s so darned charming.
Maybe it’s because of my background as a seasonal park service employee, but in recent years whenever I’ve seen photos or newsreel footage of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, I’ve taken a moment to wonder about the identities of the park rangers standing just to King’s left. That’s also got me thinking more about King himself.
Lunch counters seem like a quaint piece of early 20th century Americana, and I have long loved them for that. But as with so much of the iconography of Americana, the ugly shadow of racism has tainted our memory of lunch counters and their place in the culture. And when I say lunch counters, I’m really thinking about one lunch counter in particular: the one that once stood in the Woolworth store in Greensboro, North Carolina.
The third occasion on which I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC it was dark. I was with my wife, and we were at the memorial wall, trying to find her uncle’s name, which was inscribed on that wall along with 58,255 others. We knew generally where it was—an index book near the entrance to the wall provides location information for each name—but in the dark we were struggling to find it. Suddenly a small LED flashlight beamed white light onto the wall. It wasn’t ours—we’d neglected to bring one with us. I turned to see a small, slightly built park ranger aiming his flashlight at the section we’d been looking at.
Anyone who is a fan of John F. Kennedy and his presidency is going to love the JFK Library and Museum in Boston. It’s like a physical evocation of Kennedy’s “New Frontier.” Exhibitions and galleries abound in the building, covering such iconic early ’60s topics as the space race, the creation of the Peace Corps and Kennedy’s historic presidential visit to Ireland. The whole place so evokes the optimism of that period in American history that I found myself wishing I could be transported back in time to see it for myself.
If you’re from Milwaukee, WI, or you’ve visited the city in recent years, you’ll probably know about the “Bronze Fonz.” It’s a good example of a recent trend in public art and commemoration. It’s also weirdly cool, like the Fonz himself. But how long will it remain relevant in the eyes of Milwaukeeans?