It had been nearly 20 years since I’d first lived in D.C. Fortunately, because everything is supposed to be preserved for history, not much had changed. Other than fighting traffic, I was able to get around pretty well and we were able to see most of the major monuments and museums.

I was surprised how many visitors there were – the Mall seemed more congested than I remember and the museums were fairly packed. I did notice that security is tighter now.


Commentary by John Tucker

A while back (longer than I care to admit), I went to school at the University of Maryland. Located just a few miles from downtown Washington, D.C., attending college at Maryland was a great experience for me. I love history, thought I’d love the east coast and it was affordable because I had been given a graduate assistantship that allowed me to attend the school at little cost.
Being from the Midwest, I went through quite a culture shock during my first months on the east coast. Everyone moved quicker (except traffic – that moved very slow). There were so many things to do and so many places to see, it was impossible not to feel overwhelmed.
Eventually, I decided that life on the coast was too fast and that I enjoyed a quieter, simpler life. So after I graduated, I headed back to the Midwest – where I’ve lived ever since.
As a poor college student, my favorite thing to do was to go down to the Mall in D.C. during the weekends. I’d leisurely visit one of the museums at the Smithsonian or view some of the monuments or government buildings (particularly since everything was free to see).
Spending time in these places was great fun for me and a bit of an education. I always came away feeling privileged that I was able to visit and view the cornerstones of the government of the United States.
Now that our children are of an age (11 and 12) in which they are starting to appreciate the importance of government and history, I wanted them to experience D.C. first hand. So, last week we took the kids out east where we visited the sights of D.C. and Colonial Williamsburg, Va. (an interactive historical town where you can talk to costumed actors about what life was like in the 1700s).
It had been nearly 20 years since I’d first lived in D.C. Fortunately, because everything is supposed to be preserved for history, not much had changed. Other than fighting traffic, I was able to get around pretty well and we were able to see most of the major monuments and museums.
I was surprised how many visitors there were – the Mall seemed more congested than I remember and the museums were fairly packed. I did notice that security is tighter now. There are more metal detectors than there were and areas are roped off that you used to be able to walk in.
At the Lincoln Monument, for example, you can’t touch Lincoln anymore. You are required to stay on the other side of the rope, about 5 feet away from Lincoln’s feet. I’m guessing they got tired of people climbing onto his lap.
Funny (and a little sad) story about our visit to the Lincoln Monument – a young teenage girl asked my wife to take a picture of her and her friends. As my wife began to take the photo, the girl asked her to make sure to get “that guy” in back of them in the shot as well. The “guy” of course was the enormous statue of Lincoln.  Hopefully, the keepsake picture will inadvertently help her to remember one of our greatest presidents, because evidently her teachers aren’t.
When you experience some of the modest old historical buildings of D.C. in which history was made, you are struck by the stark contrast between where the U.S. began and what it has become. Many of the decisions that affected the course of our nation were made in small courtrooms or homes with only a handful of people present.
Our complicated systems of health, education and finance are far removed from anything our founding fathers could have thought of. When the Declaration of Independence was signed, news from China could take more than a year to get to the states, indoor plumbing was in its infancy and health care included bloodletting. Whether it be providence or blind luck, our founding fathers could not have dreamed of what we have become, but if they could have, I’d bet they’d have been inspired. 
You can debate whether or not what we have become as a nation is great or not (as many seem to be doing these days). But what you can not debate, as you walk through the monuments to the fallen, the homes of our heroes and buildings of our government is that the history of the United States has been filled with many amazing people, incredible accomplishments and extraordinary moments. 
It’s a cynical time when many believe that the “good old days” are gone for good. But after a trip to D.C. and taking in our history, it’s really hard for me not to believe that - based on our past - great things are still on the horizon for America.