Friday, 11 April 2014

History and Politics Trip to the USA: Day Five

by Will Wallace

Thursday 10th April 2014


National Archives
Today was our last day in DC, as we are heading off for Philadelphia tomorrow! Our day started with a visit to the National Archives, where multiple documents and artefacts are kept, revealing the early and recent history of the United States. Included were early copies of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights - all fundamental to the founding of the nation and its commitment to liberty. We then headed for the nearby Metro station, as Our next stop was President George Washington's house in Mount Vernon, Virginia.

On our way there, we got our first real glimpse of American neighbourhoods. Unsurprisingly the houses were what we expected: wooden, painted white with a veranda and Star Spangled Banner out front. When we got to Mount Vernon, we grabbed lunch at the centre's cafeteria - which included some pretty top notch ice cream -  before before led around his house, in which a key to the Bastille Prison (given as a gift to Washington) and his presidential chair were on display. We were then given time to explore the grounds further before returning to the bus stop.

Mount Vernon: George Washington's home
When we eventually caught the correct bus, we were on our way to Arlington National Cemetery. Miss Rickard gave us a five minute introduction to the site, before we were given an hour to visit the numerous memorials to fallen military and political figures. Of everything on our itinerary, I'd been anticipating this the most. Now that might sound like a slightly odd thing to look forward to, but it is purely because buried there are the Kennedy brothers - the men with a legacy that lives on in the progressive values held by so many today, myself included.

Arlington Cemetery
The focus of my thoughts was with Bobby, the youngest brother who served as Attorney General under his brother Jack's presidency. Whilst I've written for the Portsmouth Point before about the truly tragic nature of Jack's death, it shouldn't be forgotten that it was Bobby that influenced his brother on so many issues, including civil rights and the Cuban Missile Crisis. It's the fact that when Bobby ran for President in 1968, there was "a second chance" to pursue a peaceful approach to politics, at home and abroad. It is Bobby from who I draw political inspiration.

WW visiting his hero, RFK

Other memorials we saw included those to the victims of the Lockerbie bombing, USS Maine explosion and Challenger disaster, as well as The Tomb of the Unknowns. We split into two groups - one to catch the Metro back to the hostel, the other to walk. I went with the latter, passing the Lincoln and Washington Memorials on the way. We had some time to put our feet up before the girls led us to supper.

Led by Lydia's iPhone, we arrived at a rather suspicious bar. Why suspicious? It didn't have windows and was lit by neon lighting. We moved further up the road to find a far nicer establishment. Despite their initial bellyflop, the girls had managed to take us to the best meal we'd had so far. We walked back to the hostel - on the way passing a TV in a window which informed us that Kathleen Sebelius, the US Secretary for Health & Human Services had resigned.

As this was our last day in DC, visiting Arlington was a fitting end to a fantastic number of days. An early start tomorrow, visiting Harpers Ferry National Park and Gettsburg before heading to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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