The Mall in Washington, DC, is one of my favorite open spaces. Anchored at one end by the Lincoln Memorial and at the other by the U. S. Capitol building, the Mall is impressive not because of what surrounds it but for what it represents. The Mall is an area that symbolizes the openness of the United States of America to fresh ideas and new people.
Certainly, one does not have to look too closely to observe the security precautions even in this area, but I am always impressed by this great open space in the middle of a busy major city. On most days, the Mall is occupied by people walking, jogging, playing games, taking pictures, or just “hanging out.” These are U. S. citizens from many different ethnic backgrounds and many of the states, representing the diversity of our nation. Visitors from other countries are evident as well, coming to see the national capital of our country and its many sights.
For me, the Mall is an expression of community. Community does not come easily; it takes work. From the beginning, citizens of our country have been trying to determine what community really means. Who is in and who is out? Despite the noble words of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, many were excluded from full citizenship in that community at the beginning. Women were second class citizens. African-Americans were property. Native Americans were an inferior people to be used and abused. People of various ethnic minorities were feared and marginalized. Our understanding of what it means to part of the community in the United States has continued to evolve to match the high ideals of those founding documents.
We are not where we need to be, but when I stand on the Capitol Mall on a beautiful, sunny day, I see signs that we are moving in the right direction.