TU Global: Politics, patriotism
I met Gavri Schreiber at a youth group convention, but really got to know him on a trip through Poland, where we toured concentration camps, gas chambers and other not-so-pleasant sites from the Holocaust era and then in Israel the following week.
Gavri was from Kansas but he told me that he received the honor of being a presidential scholar and would be attending University of Maryland in the fall. So I wasn’t surprised when he called recently and invited me to view a documentary about the Constitution that he and his family were featured in.
I drove out, picked him up from school, and we headed to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History where the screening was being held.
After a few introductory speeches, the film began and at first I had trouble distinguishing it from any other documentary I’d seen about the Constitution in school or on television. But what made “We The People” different was its lack of boring historians sitting in a dimly lit room talking away for hours.
For one, it was filmed in IMAX, but even more appealing was its use of reenactments to portray how the constitution was more revolutionary than the revolution. The film was a broad history of major changes and events in America with a big emphasis on the constitution’s role in all of them.
It’s quick-paced and the sophisticated graphics really serve to visually explain different situations throughout history. The first shot of the Revolutionary War is fired, and the bullet is slowed down and zoomed in on as Kenny Rogers describes it not only as the “shot heard round the world” but as symbolizing the beginning of a revolution of ideas.
The film ended with shots of people today, living in a world with fewer restrictions thanks to the Constitution, including a shot of Gavri’s family lighting a menorah.
It ended describing the triumphs of women and their fight for suffrage and that of the civil rights movement but didn’t hesitate to allude to the problems of today. Each generation will face new challenges but will have the tools they need in facing them.
Morgan Freeman concludes the film on how those three simple words, “We The People” have and will continue to change the world.
After the film, we helped ourselves to some of the food at the cocktail party and took a look at the original Star-Spangled Banner. Afterward, we decided we’d go for a walk around the National Mall.
There was just something cool about two college kids, one aspiring to be a journalist and the other to be a politician, walking D.C. at night in suits after a documentary premiere.
Even though it’s unconventional now to be optimistic about the current state of politics even for people of our generation, it’s hard not to be struck by the powerful history consuming the small vicinity of the federal triangle and all the important events that have occurred there.
We walked by each war memorial, observed the many flags at half-staff, and stood in the spot where MLK delivered his speech in 1963 reciting some of the lines from memory.
Before heading over to dinner, we stopped by the White House and instead of snapping pictures and posting them on Facebook so people would like us better, we had a brief conversation with the man who happened to be on duty at an anti-war tent that’s had someone there 24/7 since 1981.
After dinner and a discussion about poverty that was prompted by passing the International Monetary Fund headquarters, we cut through the mall and passed by the reflecting pool on the way back to the car. The smell of marijuana in the air was strong and there was a homeless man wading in the reflecting pool, where millions stood by years ago advocating for racial equality and wider employment opportunities, pulling out what spare change he could find.
What a country.