Although I call Gig Harbor home, I was raised in the Northeast. There, I endured long, cold winters, rooted for hard-hitting hockey teams and tried to take in as much history as I could from a variety of places, such as Philadelphia, New York and the commonwealth of Virginia.
The one city I never got a chance to visit was our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. That all changed recently as I attended the 2013 National Conference on Volunteering and Service.
My day job consists of running the day-to-day operations for RallyPoint/6, a non-profit organization that supports veterans and their families. It has given me an opportunity to work with several AmeriCorps members who have served the nation through community service.
This conference celebrated those AmeriCorps members and was filled with great speakers, but above and beyond the conference’s festivities, it gave me an opportunity to get to know Washington, D.C.
When I first arrived, I was quickly reminded of one of the primary reasons I left the Northeast – the humidity. It hit me like a ton of bricks as soon as I left the airport.
The cab ride to the hotel was uneventful, but it left me with a chance to admire the city during the short drive from the airport to my hotel. The one thing that really hit me was the contrast between modern-day architecture and the historic majesty of most of the government buildings.
Time was short, though, as the conference was the main reason for my visit.
My second day was spent scurrying from session to session and trying to make time for a meal. D.C. was passing me by in a blur, and I began to develop a bit of a chip on my shoulder about the city. It was becoming more annoying than anything else: the traffic, the heat and humidity, and the fast-paced attitude of locals, dressed in their most boring blue suits and red ties.
The city was truly living up to its reputation as a government town. I was beginning to think I would never get to witness the best D.C. had to offer.
By the third day, I was determined to find the magic. The conference ended a little early, and I quickly headed west from my hotel, just a few blocks to the Washington Monument.
Although it was enveloped in scaffolding, I could not get over its size and magnitude. There were people everywhere. Some locals were playing softball at the base of the monument, and some were jogging, but most were just out for an afternoon walk.
There was no lack of friendliness. I began to relax.
I headed north over to the massive World War II Memorial. Wow, what an homage to our heroes.
And after a short walk along the Reflecting Pool, I began to realize what D.C. is all about. Yes, it’s a working government city, where decisions are made every day about the future of our country. But it’s also a time capsule, intent on preserving our nation’s history and ensuring generations to come can not only enjoy history but understand and learn from it.
My next stop was the Lincoln Memorial, where hundreds of people relaxed on its stairs. Afterward, quick stops at the Korean and Vietnam War memorials wrapped up my walk.
On the way back to my hotel, I glanced at my map and realized with a bit of surprise that I was a block away from the White House.
I looked up but could not see it. After I strolled for about another hundred yards, it came into view. But it wasn’t the view that you often see on TV. Instead, it was the view from the Rose Garden.
I was amazed at how close you could get. I truly began to feel a swell of national pride that I have not felt in a long time.
By the time that I got back to my hotel, I saw the city in a different light. I began to feel a connection with our nation’s capital that I did not expect. It began to feel like a home away from home, where history meets the modern day.
I highly recommend a trip if you can make it. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.A Time to Talk columnist Doug Pfeffer can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.