For every important, inspirational event that has happened in Washington, D.C., there’s an equally ridiculous story. I loved digging deeper into America’s history and getting a closer look at the people who were courageous, wise, and dedicated to shaping our country. I was blown away when I found out that FDR’s “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” speech was written in the hotel we stayed in, on the same floor as our room. I’m almost never star-struck, but seeing some of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington’s personal items really brought out the policy nerd in me. But as much as I loved the awe-inspiring aspects of D.C., I have to admit that the absurd ones were my favorite.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was getting to take a tour of the Pentagon with a family friend. The Pentagon, home to our Department of Defense, is understandably difficult to get into. The Pentagon is full of mystery and intrigue both domestically and internationally. During the Cold War, Russians studied satellite images and noticed a small structure in the center courtyard of the Pentagon.
The structure always had a long line of people waiting outside of it. Russia concluded that the visible Pentagon building was really a fortress built to protect the center structure. Given the constant line, the center structure had to be the true entrance to the Pentagon, and the real Pentagon was built underground. According to rumors, the Russians always had at least two missiles aimed at that courtyard structure. This made the center structure the most dangerous hot dog stand in the world.
The iconic Washington Monument was kind of a disaster. It was supposed to be a monument that was “unparalleled in the world.” The design called for a 600-foot obelisk surrounded by 30 huge columns. George Washington is amazing, and people really loved him, so this seemed like a great idea. Six years and 156 feet into construction, they ran out of funding, and the monument stayed unfinished for 20 years. After many failed attempts at raising funds and a lot of embarrassment, construction began again. Unfortunately, the stones initially used for building the monument were no longer available, so builders turned to another quarry. After building with these new stones for a while, builders confronted the fact that these stones were a terrible quality and a different color from the first stones, so they switched quarries yet again. Take a good look at the Washington monument: it’s three different colors and took 40 years to build.
The National Archives is fantastic. After making the mandatory stop at the Declaration of Independence, it’s easy to spend hours looking at some national treasures that many people probably wish you’d never see. Presidential baby photos and embarrassing letters written to the White House are definitely museum-worthy, but my personal favorite was John F. Kennedy’s Harvard report card. He got C’s in government and economics. If you blew it in college or worry you aren’t good enough, think again. Pull yourself together quickly and you, too, could be one of America’s youngest presidents.