Presidential Monuments and Memorials in Washington DC.

Washington Monument.

WashIt's an obelisk. A four-sided, tapering monument which ends in a pyramidal top; originally from ancient Egypt. It has red, blinky lights at the top like a pair of beady eyes-- just like George Washington had.

We did not have the opportunity to get inside or even up to the ring of flags at the monument's base. And that's a shame. But the thing is, when you're tooling around in the District of Columbia, the monument-- the tallest structure in the city-- is always there.

It quickly became my own orienting point; when getting your bearings you'll probably find yourself making weird directions like, "Walk two blocks from the station with the monument on your left."

Lincoln Memorial:

AbeWe had more than one friend suggest we be sure to see the Lincoln Memorial. A focal point of American pride, the temple is, and it conducts a weird electric energy of pride -- but without the ego that one gets at the Jefferson. Lincoln symbolizes for so many in America, honesty, tenacity, and principled virtue. Like the FDR Memorial, this Memorial gets the job done, explaining exactly what the intent of the temple is in big letters above the statue of Lincon: "In this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the union the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever."

Temple of Lincoln

I had connected with Lincoln earlier in the week, having seen a couple of -incredible- castings of his face and hands at the Smithsonian-- but the connection to the Greek architecture was amazing. Climbing the Memorial's stairs was not unlike climbing El Castillo, and, just like El Castillo, when you get to the top, you realize that you are sitting at the heart of one of the world's great civilizations.

Sitting at the top of the stairs on the Memorial and looking out across the mall over the reflecting pool to the Washington Monument, across the memorials to those lost war, across the tangled mess of traffic and travelers, you truly realize you're sitting, for better or worse, at the center of the American experience.

Jefferson Memorial:

Jefferson SunsetI hope that when the spirit of Thomas Jefferson looks at how history has treated him, he is grateful. A man truly capeable of incredible rhetoric and amazing word-smithing, the Jefferson Monument is an interesting dichotomy: Directly across from the white house, created at the request of FDR, the monument contains well-excerpted selections of Jefferson's seminal works, some of which he even wrote.

The water at the Jefferson Memorial tastes gross.

Roosevelt Memorial

This monument is amazing. The energy there is palpable. As you walk through the four-stages of FDR's terms in office, you experience not only the amazing and inspirational messages that peppered FDR's rhetoric, but you are moved through the social context of those messages as you explore the site. The park uses water, stone and sculpture to take you through rom the somber struggle of the Great Depression to the chaotic crumbling of a World at War.


It's a complicated memorial: how do you build a something that can compete with the grandeur and romance of Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, and still remains true to Roosevelt's principles? Even Roosevelt himself said he wanted little more of a memorial than one the size of his desk. But, thanks, I think, to the use of natural features and wide, accessible space, the Roosevelt Memorial manages to capsulize Roosevelts impact on America as we know it today in a subtle, moving way.

Also note, that of the four icons profiled here, Roosevelt's is the only one to have serious consideration of his family as part of the experience. Both First lady and dog Fala are represented in this Memorial. It's also the only one representing not only the greatness of the man, but the American People as well. This Memorial does what others simply do not: It casts the perspective of humanity across the works of a truely great president.

Depression.I hate war.