Friday, January 09, 2009

God look over the inauguration; we can fix the grass

WASHINGTON, D.C. —Most of us will be glued to our televisions midday Jan. 20, the third Tuesday this month, to watch Barack Obama take the oath of office as our nation’s 44th president here. The oath of office will be administered on the steps of the United States Capitol. At noon the president-elect becomes president.

Washington D.C. will be bursting at its seams with people, common folk (like most of us), dignitaries, the rich and famous, and power brokers from around the globe. Security will be incredible, as well it should be. The Associated Press reports that a recent internal intelligence assessment says the worldwide visibility of the inauguration and the historical significance of the swearing in of America’s first black president make the event a promising target to attacks. No specific threats were noted in the news article, but every precaution is being taken to secure the city against threats.

God be with our newly elected president.

More than a million people will be shoulder to shoulder on the National Mall. They will get a good view of the U.S. Capitol from the Mall, which is flanked on either side by the imposing row of museums comprising the Smithsonian Institution.

The Mall is one of my favorite places. I’ve been fortunate to have visited Washington D.C. and the Mall many times, my first trip being in the fall of 1964 on a high school senior class trip. About 40 classmates and me arrived there after an eight-hour, all-night bus ride from Ohio, and excitedly scrambled up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that late-autumn morning. The picture of the mist rising off the pond and the crystalline, glasslike frost on the green grass as I looked toward the Capitol in the distance remains framed in my mind.

In subsequent trips to Washington D.C., I’ve walked and sometimes jogged the Mall’s 1.9 miles, both in the heat of mid-summer and when the snow is shin deep. The Mall and its surrounding environs are stunningly beautiful during and after a heavy snow.

I’ve visited the memorials — all of the memorials — under a blazing noon sun and also in solemn pre-dawn darkness. It’s during the quietest hours of the evening that the full emotion of the memorials emerges. They almost seem to whisper then.

I always leave Washington D.C. cognizant of the fact that I’ve walked on the streets and the pebbled paths of the Mall in the most powerful and politically important city in history. Not even Rome in its heyday commanded the world's attention to such a degree.

And I leave our Capital praying that our leaders — indeed leaders worldwide — cooperate and make wise decisions that advance peace and prosperity for all mankind.

I started this blog with the intention of pointing out the sorry shape of the Mall, in terms of the grass, in particular. Because of the heavy foot traffic, the National Park Service can’t keep grass there. By midsummer each year much of the Mall is a dustbowl. That's what visitors will be standing on during he inauguration. Those areas of the Mall still grassed will be trampled into oblivion by the end of the day. But, considering the magnitude of the challenges facing our society and our leaders, the grass at the Mall is not that big of a deal. We can fix that; of that I'm positive.

If you’re still interested in reading about the condition of the Mall and what needs to be done to fix it and spruce it up, click on the headline for an interesting article in the LA Times. — Ron Hall

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