Next in our series of Great City Parks is the National Mall in D.C. The National Mall is unique in our series for 1) being a national park and 2) it’s absolute overshadowing of its host city. D.C. without the National Mall (which includes the White House and Capitol Building) would be nothing more than a swampy suburb of Baltimore. Instead, D.C., at least the part of the city in and near the mall, is a classically re-imagining of a cultured democracy where great ideas are debated, usually with the backing of multimillion dollars PACs.
The last time in D.C. we wandered in and out of arboretums and museums (my favorite was the National Air and Space Museum with its emphasis on early airplanes and space travel; Henna preferred the American Indian Museum), walked past the Capital Building and White House, and capped our day off by listening to Garrison Keillor read aloud slightly dirty limericks as part of the National Book Festival (in person he is actually even more engaging and more of a presence than he is on radio). All of this was of course free. Being a Sunday, even parking was free and it should be noted that in both our visits to D.C. parking was never an issue. Previous visits included longer strolls to the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument, an extended visit at the National Gallery where we loved the Norman Rockwell exhibit (on loan from George Lucas and Steven Spielberg’s private collection), as well as contemplative moments at the Reflecting Pool and Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
I think House Speaker Boehner and President Obama would agree that our country is not perfect. No place is. But as a first impression for millions of international tourists, the National Mall succeeds in accentuating our best traits; accessibility, civic and scientific achievements, and a confidence in our ability to lead; even if our leaders do not always live up to expectations.