Each year Nancy and I travel to her Pedriatic Convention the first week of May. She goes to meetings while I get to play and explore. It works for me. This year the convention was in our Nation’s Capital.
Going to Washington is always a return trip for me as I grew up just south of there in Woodbridge, Virginia. I didn’t fully appreciate this at the time, but school field trips to the Smithsonian Institution, the Capitol, and the National Zoo (which is part of the Smithsonian) were things I could take for granted. Only as an adult did I realize that most people paid to enter museums.
We stayed at a hotel that was close to several landmarks. Not only the Capitol and National Mall, but also Ford’s Theatre. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I walked my shoes off.
No matter how many times I walk these streets, I am moved. The role of governing this country is not for the feint of heart but it is honest. Nancy and I were able to get into the Senate gallery to watch the debate on taxing internet purchases. It wasn’t what most Americans expect: most of the Senators walked by the counter and gave a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” while everyone else was congregated in small group discussions. It’s not exactly Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
But it’s transparent. Any one of us can find out how our senator voted and we can vote against him (or her) in the next election. They can’t do this in Cuba or North Korea.
In the last few decades it’s become fashionable to see our government as the enemy and the taxes we pay as extortion but it’s not true. We pay our taxes to take for granted the freedoms we don’t think about. As I walked around Washington I was struck by the buildings I passed: the Department of Agriculture makes sure the food I eat is safe. The Justice Department ensures that my rights are as protected as the wealthiest of us. And the Library of Congress and National Archives makes sure the most valuable our most valuable documents will be preserved. It’s worth it.
I’m grateful to our Founders and I’m also proud of all the men and women who have worked as government employees since. They have preserved and protected our history and values; ironically they have also preserved the right of malcontents to criticize their existence.
I know they don’t recognize this, but I do. Thank you.