I'm not a regular viewer of "Oprah," but I turned it on this evening. I'm glad I did, because a couple of things struck me as significant and important.
The main thing was watching comedian Chris Rock learn about his ancestry. It was part of a show on PBS--I don't recall the name, but I'm sure you can find it on either Oprah's web site, or on PBS's. He found out that his great-grandfather was a slave for twenty-some years, but joined the Union forces when the Civil War started. Julius Caesar Tingman survived the war, and went on to become a politician. He accumulated over 60 acres of land, and left that to his descendants. Rock's reaction was remarkable. He said that knowing what his great-grandfather did and accomplished was shocking...and that if he'd known earlier about it, it might have changed his life. Comedy for him was a way out of menial jobs, but knowing what his great-grandfather achieved was an eye-opener, and made him realize that what he (Rock) has accomplished is nothing compared to the courage and fortitude that his great-grandfather showed some 150 years ago.
I've always felt that a strong sense of family and family history is very empowering. My family is fortunate in that a couple of individuals have done extensive research and traced our history back hundreds of years. On my Mom's side, we haven't gone back that far, but Mom was happy to find out more about her ancestors. We believe that on her side, we have Scots-Irish ancestry--her people come from Eastern Kentucky and the West Virginia area, where many of those immigrants settled. On my Dad's side, my Uncle Bill, gone for many years now, managed to trace us back to Germany in the 1500's, in the Prussian area. My ancestors came here in the late 1700's, and eventually made their way westward, to settle in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and eventually Indiana. On both sides, we've had people who served in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War (including a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient), and every subsequent war. Knowing our family history IS empowering! No matter where you're from, or what your background might be, think of what your ancestors dealt with, and had to overcome. What we deal with in our daily lives pales in comparison, and we can and should find strength in what they have done, and know that we have that strength within us.
The other thing that was discussed--and yes, this is a little lighter!--was the Smithsonian Institution. A curator brought Dorothy's ruby slippers to the show. While that doesn't totally trip my trigger--they're cool, but I'm not rabid about the ruby slippers--they discussed the Smithsonian in general. I've been fortunate enough to have visited the Smithsonian a couple of times, perhaps 3 days total. Three days can't begin to scratch the surface of this museum. There is no admission to the Smithsonian. Yes, as taxpayers, we fund it, but if you've ever visited, you will happily fork over that tax money, because it is a remarkable place. The repository of knowledge and history is astounding, and never fails to take my breath away. There are many things in Washington, D.C. to explore, enjoy, and be inspired by, but the Smithsonian really has global appeal. Seeing the curator on Oprah made me want to go back to D.C. and explore the various Smithsonian museums at length. Washington, D.C. is on our list to visit again, and I have to say, I've got the D.C. bug at the moment. It would be a long trip for Kim and Steve, but hmmm...would that be a possibility for a vacation? Let's discuss! On our last trip to D.C., we didn't get to do the tour of the White House as planned, because our Congressman had to reschedule, but I would love to try again.
Then there are the memorials. Some of those are worth seeing. <grin> That Illinois guy, Lincoln, was kinda okay, and then there's Jefferson...I guess he was okay, too. I suppose I could see their memorials again, if someone twisted my arm. The war memorials are also kinda good. All kidding aside, I'm not ashamed to admit that when I stood in the Jefferson Memorial--that was my favorite--and read the words he'd written, I was so moved that I cried. Standing there with my Dad made it even more special. Walking around the WWII Memorial with Dad and Mom, when we were all there for the dedication, is something I will never forget. We went there at night, too, and the lights were so beautiful, and it was so peaceful...the war memorials in D.C. are truly that--they are memorials to those who lost their lives, and should be approached with respect and solemnity.
I guess I'm done with my little tribute to our capitol. Sorry if I got a bit verklempt. :)