On Thursday we spent the day with Jennifer Epstein, an educational National Parks Ranger at the National Mall. Jen has been a ranger there since the late 1990s. She is a true historian. She knows so much about the memorials and monuments and she has beautiful, personal stories to tell. One of those stories was told yesterday.
FDR: As you may know, it takes a while for monuments to be built- from conception to completion. There are a lot of politics involved in this process. The 7 1/2 acres of the FDR memorial was not without conflict. There are 4 rooms that make up the FDR memorial- one for each term he served. When it came to the idea for one of his statues- there was some controversy. Would they create the statue of him standing or sitting in a wheelchair? During his presidential residency he made it very clear that he did not want photos taken of him in the wheelchair. It was reported that he thought that would show weakness. So when it came time for the statute to be built- his wishes were brought up again. Many folks voiced their opinions; including the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). It was suggested that the inclusion of the wheelchair would inspire those with mobility challenges. In the end, the statue was created with the wheelchair.
On the day of the dedication, Jen was asked to be the greeter. A young lady got out of her car and asked Jen if her hair looked okay. (Jen says that since she wears a hat all day, her opinion probably wasn't valid but she politely said- you look great) The lady was thrilled and told Jen that she was meeting Al Gore that day because she was his invited guest. Her son was in a wheelchair and she was so happy that they chose to use the wheelchair in the statue. It helped her son SEE those who looked like him. It was a great story and added much to the FDR tour.
MLK: I guess one of the most amazing things about the MLK Memorial is that his legs are not featured in the statue. For a man who spent much of his time walking- you would think we would see his legs. The idea of the missing legs is that his work was not finished. He was only 39 when he died and it's up to us to continue his work. How profound! He was also the first to receive a memorial on the National Mall that was not a president or military statue.
LINCOLN: This memorial is majestic in beauty and scale. When it was being built, the sculptor was working on much of the design at his home in Massachusetts. His first statue was only about 10 feet tall when they brought it to DC. Considering the scale of the memorial, he had to scrap that plan and start again. It ended up being almost twice that tall at 19 feet. Another interesting story about the Lincoln Memorial is that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on those very steps to speak some of the same words that Abraham Lincoln shared in the Gettysburg Address.
Our Virtual Field Trips will talk about the accomplishments of each man and encourage each of you to be inspired to do good!