An evening's amble

Aug. 23, 1999
Putting together OGJ's annual Pipeline Economics Report (p. 45) involves a visit to Washington, D.C., to the Federal En- ergy Regulatory Commission.

Putting together OGJ's annual Pipeline Economics Report (p. 45) involves a visit to Washington, D.C., to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The trip, inevitably when Washington is hottest, leaves room for little but work. Most monuments and memorials, however, remain open in the early evenings, affording a break from FERC numbers.

Opened in 1997, the President Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial is impressive by itself. But the siting-a few hundred feet from the Thomas Jefferson Memorial-is inspired.

The two memorials are polar opposites in design and execution. Yet, each expresses such truths about subject and vision that a visit is essential if someone-citizen or visitor-is to understand this country.

The common element

The 7.5-acre FDR Memorial, spread around a side of the Tidal Basin, affords a stroll through four outdoor "rooms," corresponding to FDR's four terms. Low, red South Dakota granite walls define each room which, incomplete, opens onto the next room, which opens onto the next.

Etched largely in the red walls throughout appear 21 quotations from FDR.

In sharp contrast stands the single white building of the Jefferson Memorial. Based on the Roman Pantheon, it rises majestically and gracefully over the Tidal Basin.

At its classic center, on a 6-ft pedestal of white Minnesota granite, stands a 19-ft tall bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson, gazing toward the soaring simplicity of the Washington Monument.

Also inside but high on the four walls facing the statue hang massive tablets bearing some of his most famous words.

However different the two memorials appear, their great common element-language-strikes with the force of history. Each site in fact enshrines not the men nor their accomplishments but their language and their articulated visions of this country.

From Jefferson, the nearly mythic passage in the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal,..."

Elsewhere: "No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his opinions in matters of religion."

And: "...laws and institutions go hand in hand with the progress of the human mindellipse."

Witness in FDR's words 160 years later the evolution of Jefferson's vision:

"Among American citizens there should be no forgotten men and no forgotten races."

"We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred, is a wedge designed to attack our civilization."

And, his famous Four Freedoms: "Freedom of speech...Freedom of worship...Freedom from want...Freedom from fear."

Form follows idea

As architects of both memorials knew, between the men's language and visions on the one hand and their memorials' designs on the other exists an inseparable connection:

In the elegant, tall, white temple, Jefferson's language soars on the promise of a new nation. Nestled among its flatter, more-open edifice, FDR's expresses the wider, inclusive concerns of a nation struggling to realize its Jeffersonian ideals.

...Tomorrow morning, it's back to FERC.