A Stone of Hope

President’s Day dawned unseasonably warm, here in the land of presidents. So Doug and I decided we should do something 1) presidential, and 2) outdoors. We drove into the District of Columbia to walk the monuments. As they say, whenever you have a good idea, you can be sure a lot of other people have the same good idea, which meant the easy parking spots were taken.

We drove deeper into the tidal basin than we have before, which turned out to be a good thing because we discovered a new area to walk. It’s called “Hain’s Point” and is just beyond the FDR memorial. We walked a solid hour along the point — for those of you who might be curious, you follow the Washington Channel (which feeds the Tidal Basin), to the point where the Anacostia River joins the Channel, then back up the other side of the point along the Potomac River. There was a group of people holding a 5k race and another group of cyclists making endless whirring loops. There’s a beautiful playground with a great slide, a rare find in today’s overly-cautious play areas!

After our walk we were able to find a parking space near the FDR memorial (which is one of my favorites) and from there walked to the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.

What a great day to see it! It’s a simple monument in many ways. There’s a “mountain” of stone (or perhaps something poured, I couldn’t decide and haven’t looked it up yet) with a section cut clean out. That “cut out” section is moved further up, closer toward the water, and from it the statue emerges. MLK, Jr. gazes across the Tidal Basin at the Thomas Jefferson memorial, with its great swaths of the Constitution printed on its walls. The side of the monument says “Out of the Mountain of Despair a Stone of Hope.”

I love the juxtaposition of slaveholder/liberator TJ and African-American/liberator MLK locked each other’s sights. This seems very truly American to me, an illustration of the “long moral arc of the universe which bends toward freedom.”

Along the walls leading to the MLK monument are about a dozen great quotations. Being a word person, I always appreciate a few great sentences and find it very stirring to stand and read them beside my fellow citizens. I found it interesting that the well-known “I have a dream” quotation was omitted. That’s fine with me — there was much more to MLK than the sound bite we tend to reduce his memory to, as if we were all fourth graders on a tight fact-memorization schedule.

On the way home we stopped for a bison burger at Ted’s Montana Grill, which is Doug’s favorite lunch spot, and somehow fittingly American!


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