As someone who was born outside of this country, I have always felt that the pride I feel to be an American and gratefulness I feel living in the United States — the greatest country in the world –is greater than that felt by someone who was born here.
But I had never realized the depth of my pride and gratitude until my first visit to Washington, DC.
I have travelled extensively throughout the world and always marvelled at the ancient history and buildings of cities such as Rome and Athens. I love the U.S., but I always envied the ancient history of buildings that have managed to survive thousands of years of history and are still standing.
I’ve always felt a sense of disappointment that the U.S. doesn’t have that history. Ours is a young nation and as such, our oldest buildings are a mere 200 plus years.
My disappointment turned to joy, however, when for my 50th birthday I was given a gift I will always treasure — a trip to our nation’s capital.
DC is a place that I’ve always taken for granted — a place I always thought I’d visit. But there were other cities to conquer. And like the New Yorker who has never been to the Statue of Liberty because “I can always go there,” I never went to Washington.
I am so happy that’s changed.
There’s nothing like being face to face with a larger than life Abraham Lincoln sitting peacefully in his memorial, oblivious to the thousands of flash bulbs and photographs of tourists who at that moment don’t realize they are standing on hallowed ground.
That same statue that looked over my shoulder as I posed for a photograph was the same statue that looked over Martin Luther King’s shoulder and a quarter of a million other people decades earlier as he gave his famous “I have a dream speech.”
The steps of that capitol building were the same ones on which presidents have stood for decades long before I was born.
That White House is the same one that presidents that I have only read about in history books have called home.
Those bars where I had cocktails are the same ones that if the walls could talk would tell secrets that would make the Monica Lewinsky scandal look like a children’s book.
Goosebumps, tears, smiles, love, gratitude — all were just a glance away everywhere I looked during my three day stay.
Furthermore, watching this year’s inauguration ceremonies was that much more meaningful having walked the streets of DC and recognizing the area.
My own political leanings disappeared while I was in D.C. They didn’t matter. Because no matter who is in office, our nation’s capital will always have one thing that no other city in the world will ever surpass.
It is the capital of the world’s greatest nation.