Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Beauty of Freedom

A few weeks ago my parents and I watched Mr. Smith Goes to Washington starring James Stewart. If you haven't seen it, you need to. Unfortunately, it isn't on Netflix but you can get it on Amazon for less than $10. It is a great old movie about a young, optimistic, and naive senator, Jefferson Smith, who is appointed to his seat by a corrupt governor who believes that Smith will do as he is told and, more importantly, vote the way he is told. However Smith eventually figures out what is going on and refuses to be bullied into submission. It is a pretty predictable storyline but what I love about this film is the way Mr. Smith sees Washington. He looks beyond the corrupt politicians and shady business and sees our great nation's capitol as what it truly is, the home and foundation of liberty and democracy. He sees the monuments and statues not just stone or marble but as testaments to the great men who founded our country. He considers it an honor to serve his country, not just his job. 

In the few weeks I've been here I've felt a little like Mr. Smith. Not because I work with corrupt people, I don't, but because I see and interact everyday with people who no longer look at the Capitol with the awe factor it deserves. Most people seem to just be doing their job, trying to move up the ladder, and be successful in a profession that seems to be more and more about power and less and less about public service. They don't walk around amazed at that everyday they get to work in the United States Capitol. They get to walk some of the same halls as men such as Chief Justice John Marshall and President Abraham Lincoln. 

One of my favorite parts of my job is giving tours of the Capitol building to constituents who come to visit DC, most of whom have not lost the "Awe-factor yet." On the tour they see lots of interesting things and I try my best to relay the historical significance of everything. But the absolute best part is walking into the rotunda. They may have seen pictures or seen it in the past, but nothing is like walking into the rotunda, craning your neck back as far as it will go and studying the beautiful masterpiece on the ceiling. It is breath taking and it never gets old. 

I love just taking in the Capitol Building and the view across the mall to Washington Monument. It recently hit me why I love it so much, it's because this is what freedom looks like. This is what liberty looks like. And it's beautiful!

An example to illustrate. This past summer my family and I were in Beijing. This was my fourth trip to Beijing and my parent's third.  A family friend with us who was visiting for the first time asked which buildings were their government buildings. I half jokingly replied, "The ones that look like if you go in, you'll never come back out." She immediately understood. Their government buildings are strictly in the communist style--grey, plain stone and concrete, with only one visible door and few, if any, windows and they seriously look like if you go in, you won't come out... alive at least. A cry from our beautiful buildings framed by gorgeous grounds with green grass and trees. Pictures don't do it justice. 

All this is to say, I hope I never get tired of looking at it, of taking it all in and appreciating the beauty and freedom which it represents. I think Mr. Smith sums it up pretty well. 

You see, boys forget what their country means by just reading The Land of the Free in history books. Then they get to be men they forget even more. Liberty's too precious a thing to be buried in books, Miss Saunders. Men should hold it up in front of them every single day of their lives and say: I'm free to think and to speak. My ancestors couldn't, I can, and my children will. Boys ought to grow up remembering that. 

1 comment:

  1. Great post! And great movie. You're right. Many Americans take our national treasures for granted. You can't just walk up to these places in other countries, much less go inside. We are blessed to live in the greatest country in the world.