The lessons America could learn from its own forefathers today

Taking a stroll down Washington DC’s National Mall is a sobering experience, but one that is essential on any visit to the US capital — especially as an estimated 130 million US citizens take to the polls to elect their next leader.

Lining the two-mile (ish) route are monuments to key figures and defining moments in American history — from Thomas Jefferson to Abraham Lincoln to the Vietnam War.

Each monument is set distinctly apart, allowing for much-needed moments of reflection between each.

There’s even an eponymous pool that encourages you to do just that.

Here are some of the messages that are engraved on these monuments to American history — some of which might ring especially pertinent in the context of current US politics.

Thomas Jefferson

“As new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilised society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

“In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere must and shall choose the path of social justice… the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.”

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

“We have faith that future generations will know that here, in the middle if the Twentieth Century, there came a time when men of good will found a way to unite, and produce, and fight to destroy the forces of ignorance, and intolerance, and slavery, and war.”

“Those who seek to establish systems of government based on the regimentation of all humans beings by a handful of individual rulers… call this a new order. It is not new and it is not order.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

It might seem, reading the words of the USA’s previous leaders — whether Founding Fathers, presidents or faces of a humanitarian cause — that somehow, at the beginning of the 21st Century and only a few decades on from FDR’s hopeful statement on unity in the face of challenge, we have actually gone backwards. Let’s hope not.

Originally published at