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My wife and I homeschool our two children. For months we’ve been teaching them about early U.S. history—the Revolutionary War, the Declaration of Independence, the Boston Tea Party. They know history in the same way they know their prepositions. That means they could tell you George Washington was the first president, but what they really want to know is if there is any ice cream left.
We recently drove from Nashville to Washington DC because we wanted them to see the genesis of our country, and the American legacy they’re set to inherit. I imagined what they might say, how their sweet, young faces might express amazement at laying eyes on the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
Halfway - White - House - Capitol - Front
Halfway between the White House and the Capitol, then, we stood in front of the National Archives, which contains these documents. My wife leaned close, telling me she can’t believe we have a city with buildings like ancient Greece and Rome.
It’s absolutely true: the building is magnificent. I was awestruck, thinking this must be precisely the feeling John Russell Pope had hoped to summon in people when he designed the building. Reading President Herbert Hoover’s remarks upon laying the cornerstone of the archives on February 20, 1933, I know he had the same feeling: “The romance of our history will have living habitation here in the writings of statesmen, soldiers, and all the others, both men and women, who have builded the great structure of our national life. This temple of our history will appropriately be one of the most beautiful buildings in America, an expression of the American soul.”
Son - Statues - Moment - Head - Dozens
I looked down to see our son squinting up at the statues. I’d played out this moment in my head dozens of times over the week previous, and here we were,...
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