I've been spending this week attending an annual conference for EEO officers (another of my myriad responsibilities) and took the opportunity to poke around the Mall and attend an organ recital at the National Cathedral. The former was disappointing; the latter extraordinary.
The Museums and Memorials surrounding the Mall are magnificent; the Vietnam Wall moving, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials impressive, the World War II Memorial lackluster, but what impressed me the most was the deplorable state of the grounds and obvious neglect of the public facilities. This is an extraordinarily popular site for foreign visitors and it would seem that we would want to show it off. Instead, the badly maintained lawns and flower beds surrounded by Homeland -- think Vaterland -- Security barriers and warning signs do not celebrate a wealthy democracy. They send just the opposite message.
The National Cathedral, on the other hand, is magnificent. I have been privileged to visit numerous cathedrals in Europe and this ranks right at the top. It's beautiful and immaculate, free and welcoming. Sunday evenings there are organ recitals and visitors are invited to sit right up under the pipes. The night I was there - very hot and humid outside, cool and refreshing inside -- Dr. Sean Jackson played a series of mostly 19th century virtuoso pieces that really showed off the capabilities of the organ. If you ever get the Washington, this should not be missed.