Monday, January 19, 2009

Memorials Monuments and Markers

Today was an especially delightful day here in D.C.  Each day so far has brought us a different pleasure, in forms that I would never have expected. 

For example, the monuments and memorials.  Of course here there is a memorial  or monument or stautue of, to and for just about everyone and everything that has been even remotely associated with U.S. history, and many hundreds of plaques, markers and signs that are not so related, but which serve to illustrate the vital function that a place like this serves. It is in fact a very complex and many facted testament to the  American achievement.  I have no shame in saying that I have great pride in this country and the progress that Americans have brought to the world.  It is a better place for our little social experiment, despite the wounds our culture has inflicted on other cultures,  peoples--often it's own-- and the planet. 

The foregoing, then, is evidence of my fundamental belief that progress--social, intellectual, yes, even political--is not only possible, but is a innate function of humanity.  That assertion I will defend in another esaay, but here I present it as defense for the pride I feel so deeply in this place and the people here assembling with such open joy and goodwill it's hard not to believe that this is indeed the beginning of something new and the continuation of something old.  The newness may in fact be one of the oldest traditions in this still growing Republic. Each generation brings something new and invigorating to the place and the process of practicing human liberty.

I actually wept today in the Jefferson Memorial, reading the words, "We hold these truths to be self-evident..." for on this day it is made evident, manifest in the world that even if the ideal has yet to be reached, the principle upon which this Republic was founded, that all men are equal and possessed of basic, inaliable rights is not out of sight nor has it been rendered false because we have yet failed to achieve it for our own citizens and the people of the world.  

This new President, like so many other great leaders, has that vision clearly before him.  His gift has been to help us catch sight of it again at last.  I can see it.  Can you?

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