Monday, July 27, 2009
My daughter and I just spent several days in Alexandria, Virginia and Washington, D.C. with our cousins Kristy, Jason and Olivia. On Friday, we rode into the city and while Kristy was at work and Olivia at her childcare center, we went to the Newseum. With little time left after many hours there, we walked down Pennsylvania Avenue. We were thrilled to witness the Presidential motorcade heading back to the White House and President Obama waving to those of us on the corner of 15th and Pennsylvania Avenue! Our cousins' little girl is in childcare downtown and seeing the "sights" is a daily occurrence for her. Wow. Waiting for Kristy to pick us up, we spent time sitting on a bench in front of the Department of Commerce. On the building above our heads was the inscription "Cultivate peace and commerce with all. -Jefferson"
Finally still and quiet, I had some time to ponder on these words and to think of all that I had just seen at the Newseum. After viewing the "4D" movie, we began our journey through the museum exhibits viewing photographs from the International Committee of the Red Cross. Heartwrenching photos and stories were told from from war torn and ravaged countries such as Haiti, Lebanon, the Phillipines, Iraq, and Georgia. The pictures tell the story of great pain and suffering, but also great hope and resilience. Many hours later, we had seen exhibits about the FBI, ethics in journalism, the first amendment rights, the Presidential campaign and inauguration, an exhibit on 9/11 and a photojournalists' memorial. Some of the exhibits, such as Presidential Dogs had helped us begin to focus on lighter and happier subjects. We had decided to leave, but then saw an exhibit on Pulitzer Prize winning photographs. We knew that we should not miss this one. I cannot adequately describe this exhibit in words. The pictures, the stories of where they were shot, and the photographers' stories of the situations were incredible. Many of the pictures were familiar, but many of the most gut wrenching were thankfully NOT. These photographs brought tears and great sadness and a sick feeling in the pit of our stomachs. We agreed when leaving that it was that same feeling we had encountered upon touring the Holocaust Museum. So much pain and so much anguish comes with hatred and with war. Sitting there on that bench on a corner in Washington D.C., with stately beautiful buildings and architecture, flags everywhere, statues and inscriptions about justice and freedom all around me...I couldn't help but think about PEACE and how much we do take that for granted. In my comfortable, happy world I cannot even FATHOM the atrocities that I viewed through a photojournalists' lens earlier in the day. I am oh so grateful to be living in the United States. More importantly, however is the CULTIVATE part. If we all made it our goal to cultivate peace every day and everywhere, in all aspects of our lives and in our world...eventually there would be less hatred, less war. Cultivate peace. Every day.