Sunday, June 5, 2011

Yes I Am A Nerd

Just a warning... this is going to be an extremely nerdy post. I do know that at least one of my friends will appreciate it. Alissa (you can see her blog here) is just as nerdy (if not more) about history as I am! (And, by the way, her birthday was this weekend - HAPPY BIRTHDAY LIS!)

Anyways, on Friday I had the opportunity to do one of the coolest things I've done since I've been in D.C. Our office intern coordinator set up a tour of the National Archives for our interns and she invited myself and a few other people from the office who had never been to tag along.

It was nice to be able to get out of the office on one of the most beautiful days I've experienced in D.C. (think 72 degrees and sunny - absolutely perfect)

We were able to enter the National Archives before it was open to the public - meaning no lines, no screaming babies. First, we were given a tour of the portion of the building that is open to the public. For the first time, I saw the original Bill of Rights, Constitution, and Declaration of Independence. I could have gone home happy just being able to see those three items!

Next, we were taken into a special room where one of the educational specialists from the National Archives pulled out additional items that aren't generally available for the public to view. Below are a few of the special items (keep in mind these are all originals) we were able to view...

  • The Inaugural Address of President George Washington (in his own handwriting)
  • A petition that Andrew Jackson (TN) wrote to Congress approximately 25 years before he was elected President of the United States
  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Speech given after the bombing of Pearl Harbor - also known as the "Day in Infamy Speech" (it was typed on typewriter but has his personal edits in his own handwriting)
  • President Lincoln's nomination of Ulysses S. Grant to be Lieutenant General of the Army (in his own handwriting)
  • The Civil Rights Bill as it was voted on, including stamps on the different amendments as they were voted on - this was really amazing to see how they literally cut and pasted different amendments onto the bill (hence our present day word processors having "cut" and "paste" shortcuts)
  • The Radar Map of Hawaii on the morning of December 7, 1941 - this was probably one of the most amazing things we saw. It showed the radar plotting (a new feature at the time) of Japanese bombers approaching Pearl Harbor. It began plotting the planes at 7:02 a.m. and tracked them all the way until 7:38 a.m. Since the radar plotting technology was new, only a handful of men were trained to use the technology. The shift for the men tracking the planes ended at 7:00 a.m. Before they left, they called base in regards to the planes and were led to believe the planes were American B-17s scheduled for arrival to re-fuel the same day. They stopped tracking the planes at 7:38 a.m. - the first bomb was dropped on Pearl Harbor at 7:55 a.m. I actually got chills and had to hold back tears thinking of the significance of that piece of paper and the significance of that day in history.
  • President Ronald Reagan's nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor who became the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States
  • Congressional investigation papers of the stock market crash that led to the Great Depression - papers that essentially formed the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
Needless to say, it was quite a breathtaking experience! I am still semi-speechless when I think about the historical significance of everything I saw on Friday. 

I also had a moment of sadness when I thought about the challenges of preserving history in todays day and age. With todays technology, I find myself wondering how well historical documents will be preserved for my great, great grandchildren. We are truly lucky to have fellow Americans like those who work at the National Archives who make it their life goal to make advancements so that our nations history will continue to be recorded and available for future generations.

I am so lucky to live and work in the most powerful city on the face of the planet. I still get chills every single time I walk past the Capitol or see the Washington Monument. I think the day living in our nations capital doesn't create those type of emotions will be the day it is time for me to move immediately. (And trust me, I honestly don't think that will ever be the reason for my moving!)

I hope everyone has a blessed Sunday!

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