by Kinglsey Guy
Washington, D.C., is an impressive place, if you look only at the monuments, neoclassical buildings and Victorian mansions. But take those away, and the city’s left primarily with statist, bureaucratic, monolithic structures similar to the ones that began proliferating throughout the world around the 1930s, including in Moscow and Berlin.
Architecture can reflect values and aspirations, or a lack thereof. The Capitol Building, sitting on a hill and capped by the Statue of Freedom, harkens back to the governing principles of republican Rome. The White House, stately but hardly regal, reflects America’s rejection of kings and princes.
My favorite memorial is the one to Thomas Jefferson, the nation’s third president. The rotunda mirrors the ones Jefferson designed for his home at Monticello and his beloved University of Virginia. A student of the ancients, he revered the sovereignty of the individual and recoiled at the idea of a society governed by a caesar.
Jefferson understood the dangerous nature of power, and I suspect that if the statue of Jefferson in the middle of his monument transformed into Jefferson himself, he would look out at the nation’s capital and be appalled at what he saw. The sage of Monticello never envisioned such power concentrated in one place. He might even ask the same question I did two weeks ago as I looked at the massive, unimaginative edifice of the Department of Education headquarters near my hotel: “Can anything of value come out of a monstrosity like that?”
My musings about Jefferson, and architecture, took place during a visit to the nation’s capital as one of 75 members of the four-day “Washington Fly-in” organized by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce and hosted by Allen West, the freshman Republican congressman from District 22.
The Fly-in was designed to facilitate dialogue between concerned citizens and Washington’s decision-makers, and give participants a better grasp of the issues affecting the nation. It brought Fly-in members into contact with politicians, ambassadors, military leaders, journalists and business spokespeople. By all accounts, it succeeded beyond expectations.
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