In 1964 my father put the entire family on a plane and we all flew to Washington D.C. It was to be a two week ‘educational’ vacation. I was 13. It was more than educational. It was a trip that framed my outlook on life.
The experiences of the entire trip from Washington DC to Woodstock, New Brunswick, Canada changed that young girl. My parents took me to Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City and bought me a pure silk dress. I saw a Broadway play. We went to the New York World’s Fair where I saw Michelangelo’s Pietà.
I ate lobster for the first time in Kennebunkport, Maine. I picked wild raspberries in Canada. I rode a horse at a horse ranch near my cousin’s home. I drank unpasteurized (and warm) cow’s milk. I watch the reversing falls in the St John River.
But the most incredible moments came in Washington D.C. My father had contacted our Congressman, Harlan Hagen. We went to his office in the Capitol. We were given tickets into the gallery of the United States Senate. I remember seeing Everet Dirksen and Hubert Humphrey and being told that they had just had a cloture vote on the Civil Rights Bill. Then the Congressman’s wife took us, in a Congressional car, on a tour of Washington.
She was driving and wasn’t sure of how to get into Arlington Cemetery. She drove up to a gate to ask for directions.
The spiffy looking Marine saluted as we approached, open the gate and we drove through. She kept driving until there were some Marines in the road. She stopped, They came to the doors of the car, opened them, snapped to attention (with clicking heels!) and we got out. We didn’t know where we were. Until we saw a small flame. We were on the family side of the grave of John F. Kennedy.
My father almost went to his knees.
There was a white picket fence that separated the general public from the grave and us. People were taking pictures of us!!
Because of that trip (and several wonderful teachers of Civics and Government) I am steeped in history of the American government.
After these last four years, I mourned for the country that I thought I knew. Today, I cried in joy, relief, excitement, and a host of other emotions.
When President Biden and Vice-President Harris entered Arlington Cemetery and stood at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I lost it. I had been standing just behind the spot where they stood. I have felt the power of that place.
Today was momentous. It brought back a flood of memories and a renewal of ideas and thoughts that had laid dormant for so long. There is hope in my heart and a little more energy in my step.
Here’s to Mr. Mike (senior year Government) who let me argue my case and Mr. Ippolito who let me write it. And, of course, to my father for teaching his kids what patriotism really means.
Hope is eternal. Just like JFK’s flame.