The D.C. War Memorial is a secret garden on the National Mall. Steps from the Lincoln, World War II and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorials, it stands secluded from the pomp and circumstance (and tourists) of the surrounding spaces.
Visiting this circular domed temple, you will feel as if you stepped into Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream or Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Any second now, Mr. Darcy will emerge from the foggy hallow to profess his undying love for… Sorry, back to reality.
This Memorial pays honor to the District’s World War I veterans. Intended as a bandstand, it was dedicated by Herbert Hoover on November 11, 1931. Today, November 10, 2011, the Memorial will be re-dedicated after a much-needed restoration and cleaning.
This exciting re-opening is laced with controversy. Currently, the Mall lacks a national World War I memorial (hard to believe, but it’s true). Amongst national memorials to Vietnam, Korea and World War II – some would like to rededicate this space to honor all of our nation’s World War I veterans.
However, the D.C. War Memorial is the only local memorial on the Mall, making it a point of pride for the District. D.C. voting rights advocates believe the proposed change is disrespectful to District sovereignty. Read more about the controversy here.
What I love about this debate is that people are talking about (and fighting over) our public art. At times, our nation seems indifferent to, or even against, supporting the arts.
Yet, works of art continue to hold important symbolic significance in our hearts and minds. We may disagree – I’m just delighted we care.
I am reminded of a quote from Rape of Europa, a phenomenal documentary about the displacement and loss of art during World War II: “Art belongs to humanity. Without it we are savages – we fight, we eat, we sleep. Art is what makes us human.”
I look forward to visiting the now sparkling D.C. War Memorial. My secret garden isn’t so secret anymore!