Spencer Bailey | Contributing Author | firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington D.C. is a city that is, in many ways, leading the world into the future. Yet, at the same time, it is a city deeply rooted in the past and full of history. Having visited D.C. when I was younger I had expected to be familiar with much of what the city had to offer. To my surprise, the LJS travel course to D.C. opened my eyes to reveal the city in a way that very few college students are fortunate enough to experience. Simply put, the D.C. trip was one of the best experiences of my academic career.
Out of the many memories made there, one of the most memorable experiences was the first Sunday we spent in Washington. Rising early in the morning and putting on my Sunday best, I find myself standing in front of White House as the sun climbs higher into the sky. After taking pictures we turn around and walk the path that dozens of Presidents throughout history have walked before us. Strolling through the park, leading up the steps into St. John’s Church, we take a seat in what is known as the “Church of the Presidents”. This small yet elegant church is an island of faith in a sea of politics. The highly symbolic and liturgical service is full of church traditions, practices, and hymns that are all centered on the remembrance of the death of Jesus Christ. Leaving the sanctuary I pass by a plaque on the back pew stating that Abraham Lincoln, throughout the civil war, would often slip into the evening service to sit alone, only to leave moments before the closing prayer would end and quietly walk back to the White House.
After attending services at St. John’s we enjoyed brunch at the historic Old Ebbitt Grill, one of the oldest restaurants in Washington. Following lunch we rode the metro out to the Arlington National Cemetery in what was turning out to be a beautiful sunny day. Walking through the visitor’s center I am taken aback by the astounding view of endless rows of pristine white tombs stretching as far as the eye can see. Peaceful rolling green hills spotted with yellowwood trees covered by the thousands of dead enshrined forever. We follow a stream of people quietly walking up and over the hills, arriving at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Carved into the white marble are the words: ‘Here Rests in Honored Glory an American Solder Known but to God.' The tomb is guarded ceaselessly by an armed sentinel whose every footstep is symbolically commemorating those who are buried there.
In complete silence we witness the changing of the guard, then gather our things and thoughtfully walk away, boarding the metro, headed to our next stop: the Holocaust Memorial Museum. An overwhelming place solely dedicated to remembering the death and suffering experienced by six million Jewish men, women, and children. One of the greatest injustices memorialized, their memory honored, never to be forgotten, and witnessed by millions of visitors since the museum first opened its doors. The museum’s purpose and meaning are captured by the words of President Reagan, “We must make sure that from now until the end of days all humankind stares this evil in the face...and only then can we be sure it will never arise again.”
Washington D.C. is a city full of memory. Nearly every stone and structure is dedicated to the remembrance of something or someone long past. Nearly every street corner seems to have had its moment in history and some of the greatest men and women who have changed the world have walked its streets. My trip with LJS was one of the most inspiring and thought-provoking experiences of my life. As my peers and I wandered the historic streets, we remembered the past and we looked toward the future, wondering what our place in it might be. I came with many questions, discovered many answers, yet still found myself in even more wonder as I walked away from such an inspirational experience at our nation’s capital. An experience than cannot be captured in so few words.