I may be one of New York City's biggest boosters, but occasionally I go on vacation or for a brief trip away from the Big Apple. For America's Thanksgiving weekend, my husband, daughters and I traveled to Bethesda, in suburban Maryland, to spend the holiday with members of his family. We have undertaken this trip many years and along with the holiday feasting, we engage in some touristy jaunts.

This year we chose to walk around the National Mall in Washington, DC to see some of the biggest monuments and war memorials. My older daughter, who is 15, was particularly interested in this. The weather was nice, so it seemed a fine idea. There were many tourists out and about in the heart of DC, and the underground Metro trains were running well, so it was an easy trip.

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First we walked to the Washington Monument, a huge, streamlined stone obelisk that is impressive although in my opinion, somewhat off putting. Ringed with American flags flying from poles, we were among hundreds of people who enjoyed viewing it and snapping photos. Then we walked west to the nearby World War Two Memorial, which is the visual opposite of the minimalism  embodied by the Washington Monument. The WW2 Memorial is composed of several pieces and the while it is interesting and has many history lessons embedded within, it is "unger potschke," a cluttered array of bombastic-ness. I know someone is liable to criticize me for stating this, but I'm not the first.

It should be noted that this WW2 memorial focuses on the American experience of the war, with nothing about the Holocaust.

After that we strolled along the Reflecting Pool, a narrow rectangle of water that offers an inspiring reflection of the Washington Monument...when you arrive at the Lincoln Memorial. The Lincoln Memorial is, in my opinion, a wonderful tribute to the 16th US president, a mix of enduring tribute and simplicity. Along with hundreds of other people, we walked up the steps to the temple-like structure which houses the majestic sitting statue of Mr. Lincoln. On the walls are two of his best known written works, the Gettysburg Address and the 2nd Inaugural Address.

My husband and I seemed to be among the few people who actually stood still and read the two amazing speeches; most people glanced, shot photos (including selfies, of course) and walked on. Lest you think me a pompous academic, I do think that one should read and contemplate these two speeches when visiting the Memorial. Lincoln was one of America's foremost orators, still is considered so today, and his words are powerful.

Afterward we visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which includes the names of all service members who died during the conflict, as well as two statues. I did look for names that seemed to be Jewish, because this memorial can be overwhelming, an avalanche of the names of service men and women.

There is much to see in Washington, DC and much of it is quite weighty and historical. The tributes described here are very public, very shared. My next essay will be about some smaller moments I experienced during Thanksgiving.


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