Four Powerful Words

April 12, 2008 — 1 Comment

OK, now that we’ve explored the implications of digital screens, I want to reflect on some profound analog concepts. Freedom, liberty, personal responsibility, sacrifice, loyalty, honor and unity come to mind.

Last week our family used spring break to visit Washington D.C., our nation’s capitol. During our decade overseas, we visited many of the great seats of government throughout Asia and Europe, but we’d never seen the home court. Wow!

If you ever want a dazzling multimedia experience, I suggest standing in the cavernous memorial to Abraham Lincoln among a silent crowd and slowly digesting the words of Abe’s Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address. You can read them online, or you can read them under the massive statue, covered by the roof with the names of the States of the preserved union, looking down at the Capital across the reflecting pool, the Washington Monument, and two full miles of the West Mall. In contrast, the Korean War Veterans Memorial only highlights four words: Freedom Is Not Free. It will take your breath away as you gratitude wells up from a deep place inside. Ditto the WWII and Vietnam Memorials. This is hallowed ground.

The sense of respect and honor grows as we visit Arlington Cemetery (310,000 servicemen and women are buried there, marked with a simple white cross), the tomb of the Unknown Soldier (inscription: “Here rests in honored glory an American Soldier known but to God”) and the JFK eternal flame. And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. Fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what we together can do for the freedom of man.

As we moved from place to place, from museum to museum, and out into the colorful parkways lined with pink and white cherry blossoms in full bloom, the deafening drumbeats of ceaseless scoffing and endless criticism of the United States by the media somehow faded away. Live blues flowing from the Cherry Blossom festival certainly contributed. I could picture George Washington and a few close friends sitting on the back porch of his Mount Vernon estate, overlooking the Potomac River, dreaming of a country that would be so radically different from the despotic self-serving governments the world had known to date. I found myself believing that George’s personal assessment of the United States still rings true today:

That the Government, though not absolutely perfect, is one of the best in the world, I have little doubt. – George Washington

One response to Four Powerful Words

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