Episode 16

Washington Mall facts you didn't know

Visiting the Washington DC Mall during the cherry blossom season made our visit that much more enjoyable. It is needless to say that there is more than enough history for us to film and share with you! We even had a surprise celebrity sighting right on the Lincoln Memorial.

Washington Mall History and a Historian's Take

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Transcript
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greetings and welcome to the talk with

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your tea podcast I'm your host Scott

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here with my wife and historian Jen

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hello on this podcast we talk about

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history's continuing impact on us today

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and our personal journey through YouTube

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is we continue to explore record and

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share our history walks with you

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now for today's podcast there really

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isn't much that I need to do to

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introduce one of the most famous

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locations in America the National Mall

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in Washington DC it's full of History so

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Jen Let's Just Jump Right In sure where

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did we start so the mall you know people

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when I say the DC Mall people are always

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like the shopping mall but that's what

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we refer to as that big grassy area in

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Washington DC that's kind of it's

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adorned with monuments and markers to

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the people who have shaped this country

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and it's visited by over

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25 million people a year yeah like it is

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and it's free so you can walk around you

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can go at any time and it's beautiful

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it's clean it's well kept yes and tons

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of History so we started at the Thomas

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Jefferson Memorial yeah and I had

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actually never been there before that

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was my first time too and so you see it

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you know you can always go oh there it

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is but I had never actually gone inside

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and it's beautiful so it's a huge statue

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of Thomas Jefferson inside he's bronze

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and then the outside of the pillars and

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and we went during the cherry blossoms

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oh it was gorgeous so right around it

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was it was so pretty like everything was

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in full bloom and there was petals

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everywhere it was awesome it was awesome

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so when I say Title Basin it's that

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curve of the mall around because it's

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basically kind of like a big almost like

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a l more like a u yes yes and that's

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when people say the cherry blossoms on

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the tidal base and that's what they mean

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but Jefferson was the third president

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that Monument was built for from 1939 to

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1943 under FDR and it really goes into

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it but they have like a bunch of like

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his sayings around him things that he

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wrote and it celebrates him as more than

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just president but like a scientist an

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inventor an architect like the pillars

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on the outsider his architectural idea

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yeah and so it kind of is more to him

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than just the president but of course

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it's he's the author of the Declaration

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of Independence so they have that on the

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wall it's um the statue is 19 feet yeah

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and it was a lot bigger thousand pounds

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like it's huge and you can actually see

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it at night you could if you kind of

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look through the pillars you can see the

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statue in there it's it's lit up but

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he's holding the Declaration in his hand

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so that's what he's standing there

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holding but it was and the statue was

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dedicated I think like in 1947 so after

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FDR so the the monument was there first

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and then they put in the Statue yeah now

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it was it was really really cool and and

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we actually went to kind of give the

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larger picture of like how we were

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filming this I mean we did this with our

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kids yes we did this with family my mom

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and the

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um electric electric wheelchair electric

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wheelchair although she wasn't she

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didn't start there with us so I so I

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actually dropped her off it was a lot

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and then kind of like hoofed it from

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Lincoln down to the Jefferson Memorial

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in my steel-toed boots which actually

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like it gave me issues later that I

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suffered for so that's advice I always

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try to give people in Washington DC

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because you can see everything yeah

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pretty clearly you think it's closer

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than it actually is and it's not that

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close I think it's about I want to say

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it's about a mile mile and a half

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between the Lincoln Memorial and the

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Jefferson Memorial oh I believe it

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because there have been so many times I

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I've seen the Washington monuments so

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the big obelisk in the middle of

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Washington and I'm like oh that's not

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far we can make it there no problem and

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you'll be walking for like 20 minutes

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yeah and you're not even closer and it

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looks yeah I think we walked to I think

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I probably walked because I did a bunch

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of extra right dropping your mom off and

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then come and get you guys and then

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walking back and all this stuff I mean I

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probably walked jogged whatever and

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still took boots for like five or six

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maybe seven miles that day and that's

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good advice because it is very walkable

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yes and that is the best way to see it

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because you can't really drive from

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Monument to Monument yeah it's not an

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easy City to drive and there are there

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are folks who bike around a little bit

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but it's it's I would say it's probably

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better to walk because you kind of

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really get the experience and especially

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more going through what's the next

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Monument we walk through which is FDR

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which is awesome it was really cool if

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you haven't seen the FDR monument yet I

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definitely recommend getting out there

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it was only built in 1997 and in 2001

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they actually put a cloak around FDR to

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kind of I wouldn't say hide the

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wheelchair but they wanted to

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you know we emphasize it de-emphasize it

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yeah so they put the cloak around that

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but it was it's dedicated to his four

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terms of office and it's basically a

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walking Monument so you walk through

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each term

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and as we walked it backwards but if you

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walk it forward like you're supposed to

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yeah if you're walking from the Lincoln

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Memorial to the Jefferson that's the way

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you should walk it yeah and that goal

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will go in sequence of his time in

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office and they'll have different kind

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of monuments they have his Fireside

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Chats yeah that's cool they have people

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standing in line for the depression the

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bread lines the bread lines and

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they what's really neat is they um they

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have a water feature that was cool and

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the water will get more and more complex

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as his terms go on right because as his

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presidency goes on he's going to take

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America into World War II yeah and it's

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going to get more and more difficult and

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complex and so that's what that water

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feature is supposed yeah that was

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something that I had I'd seen it before

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I had been to the mall before but I had

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never heard that

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um and the kind of the reasoning behind

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that and and so I actually specifically

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kind of looked for it and the water

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wasn't running while we were there no

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but it but you could still tell yes it

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was really neat so he's our 32nd

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president you know being assisted

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through the Depression and World War II

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has four terms the only president to

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have four terms now you're not allowed

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to have four terms but he and it was a

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rarity even then because he wanted to

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bring America through the war yeah he

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felt like he got you know he was with

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America in the beginning and he wanted

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to see it through yeah so that was why

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he served four terms yeah and being

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there again I'm gonna foot stomp this

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because if anybody listening to this can

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pick a time to go go in the cherry

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blossoms are are in bloom which is

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april-ish that's where we went over

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there right around Easter spring break

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time frame

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um I think it gives you a completely

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different experience being there with

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those cherry blossoms

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um and again me being the kind of more

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cinematic camera guy like I loved it it

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was great it was just gorgeous to shoot

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yes and

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it like I said this it's open air rooms

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big Grand and they have some of his

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famous speeches and things that he said

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quotes yeah I think they had his wife

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there yeah Eleanor Roosevelt has her own

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statue of course because she was such an

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influential first lady but just a lot of

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quotes that he had said and and I think

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there's almost a

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a touching wall remember we just talked

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about that yeah like a braille yes like

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a braille so they were talking about

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disabilities and handicaps and trying to

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embracing that yeah so there was a

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braille wall which back then was not

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embraced no that's why they are they

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kind of hit it yeah he tried not to have

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any pictures taken of him in the

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wheelchair and that's why the front of

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the Resolute desk was put on so people

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wouldn't see him in the wheelchair and

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at the time the Press was very

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accommodating to that for him yeah it

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would be that way nowadays but uh yeah

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it was it was that was

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I don't know if that was my favorite one

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but that was up there it was pretty cool

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it was pretty neat well the next one

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Martin Luther King I had never seen

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before

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so I hadn't either because it's not a

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lot of these you can kind of see from

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the road right the Jefferson Memorial

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Lincoln Memorial the Washington Monument

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but the the MLK one it's it's I wouldn't

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say it's tucked away it's just not

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easily viewable from the road it has a

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great view of the tidal base then yes

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but you have to walk over to it and it's

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neat it's kind of like he's coming out

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of the mountain it's like he's cut out

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of the mountain moving forward and it

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that's also a new one 2011. it's called

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the stone of Hope

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it's 30 feet high and he's only the

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fourth non-president to be memorialized

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on the mall yeah I didn't I didn't know

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that either so as we're we're doing this

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and you're kind of telling me about it

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almost as like a warm-up for you to

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actually put say it on camera

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um I mean I was learning things left and

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right you know I got to see all his like

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super famous quotes yes right so so

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walking up to it there's like a bunch of

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his famous quotes from his speeches and

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stuff like that that are kind of carved

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into the wall so it's you're walking up

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to the and then here he is like kind of

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like you said it's it you can tell it's

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it's kind of yeah he's 30 feet high

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intended to to kind of be coming out of

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this

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um this Stone embankment which then

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you'll then walk behind them yes you

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know on to the next one but uh the MLK

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one was it was really really neat and

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you did say that there's a

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some people kind of said that there was

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a little bit of controversy because the

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marble the stone is white it's white so

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I had you know when I went to grad

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school at the University of Memphis uh

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we had talked about this monument and

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some of my fellow

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cohort in my class who were

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African-Americans said why why would you

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have a monument to Martin Luther King

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and make it white and I never thought

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about that but it's true it is that's a

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good point bright white yeah yeah

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um but do you know the other three

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people who are uh on the mall that are

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not presidents I did when I was making

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the video a year ago I do not anymore so

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John Paul Jones that's right uh John

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Erickson

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kind of like a forefather of America and

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George Mason

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to America yeah good old jpj father of

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the Navy

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I know

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MLK is Korea yeah so you kind of walk

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behind MLK and then you will kind of

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walk along the path over towards the

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Korean and you'll be walking and you'll

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see these the Korean memorial is so cool

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it was um it was built in 1982 to 19 uh

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1992 to 1995 and it's called the column

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because it's supposed to be men walking

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in a column as if they're on patrol and

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their life size yeah so it's so nice and

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you can kind of you can kind of walk

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between them yeah it's really cool and

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it's 19 men 14 Army three Marine Corps

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One navy one Air Force oh representation

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and it's just there have like their

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ponchos it looks like it's harsh weather

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because Korea was harsh weather and

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they're walking through yeah yeah it's

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just it's such a neat Memorial I think

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because it's so life-like to be yeah you

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that that one you almost feel like it's

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trying to take you there more than more

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than anything else more than any of the

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other monuments in my opinion because

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it's it's really it's almost more about

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the scene than it is about any specific

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person yes and I think because they call

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it the Forgotten War yeah because most

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people forget Korea because it's it

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relatively fast lifespan-wise right like

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mash they say about the Korean war was

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longer yeah than the actual career

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that's right yeah and so I think when

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you when you walk through it like that

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you're like wow I feel like a part of

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this yeah it's a very very neat Monument

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I really like it

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um I they said 1.5 million people

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actually served in the Korean War so

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it's dedicated to everyone who served so

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there are pictures etched in and you can

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see and they do that again

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representation it's all services and you

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see women and you see everybody this

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kind of like depicts moments from the

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Korean War yeah and that's really cool

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to see too yeah it was a neat one and

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again we were we were there and it was

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you know spring break April time frame

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you know so there was a fair amount of

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people out but you could still I mean

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when you if you see the video I still

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got pretty good oh sure Vantage Point

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yeah it was it wasn't super crowded or

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anything like that and after that was

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Lincoln yeah which the Lincoln Morris

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I don't that might be one of the biggest

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just kind of just area wise ones on the

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entire mall and that's what people want

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to go that's that's so cool it's so cool

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and and who did we see when we were

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there so so we saw and I didn't I didn't

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even notice it and I think you did be

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more I think he more heard his voice so

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we saw a very famous actor yes we did

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what would we see Denzel Washington

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that's right we heard him and we saw him

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I think did he like look at us and wave

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at us no I don't think he waved at us I

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think Jr and Tiffany my brother yeah so

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they went over and tried to get his

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attention but he was actually there

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filming a movie filming a movie and he

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was actually I think he was teaching

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like some George Washington film

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students I think it was Howard was it

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Howard I think it was Howard so but

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there was like you could tell there were

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students there with him and he was

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talking them through probably some sort

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of course or just like a guest for film

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for something like that um but he was

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filming that movie that's now out

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Michael Jordan yes letters from home or

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something I think that's the movie yeah

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they were filming that right on the

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steps of the Lincoln Memorial which I

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didn't see my I don't remember seeing

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Michael Jordan I don't think he was in

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the scene and and the funny part was

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it's like when when you pointed Denzel

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Washington now the only way I could tell

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who he was because we were everybody was

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kind of still where a lot of people were

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still wearing masks even outside at the

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time

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um but I could tell by his walk yes so I

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could tell by his by his walk I was like

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that's Denzel Washington I I don't I

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can't see his face because he's this

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guy's wearing a mask and a baseball cap

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yeah

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um and it was pretty cold it was

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um so he was wearing a big thick jacket

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but I could tell by his walk it's crazy

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like you've seen someone in enough

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movies that you could tell he kind of

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had that that Denzel walk yeah I had

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that Swagger and uh so that was that was

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that was pretty cool it was pretty cool

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and it was neat to see

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the Lincoln I mean I've I every time we

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go to the link Memorial I love it so

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16th president of course a great

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emancipator you know you have the

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Gettysburg address on one side of the

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monument you have the Emancipation

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Proclamation on the other side of the

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monument uh it was it's 36 columns for

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the 36 States during the Civil War it

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was built from 1912 to 1922 and

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his son was there for the dedication and

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and we actually went there probably two

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or three times while we were there so we

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went there actually the night before was

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it the night before that we went there

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and you actually found the spot where

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MLK stood yes so I I had no we went

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there that day and I had seen it and we

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took pictures of it we went back we went

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back that night and people kept asking

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where it was and what they do there to

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make it so picturesque is they really

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make it super dark on the steps and

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around and really lit up inside so the

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the statue really glows but you can't

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see much on the steps so I had to hold

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my light for my cell phone yeah for

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people because it's just cut into the

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marble that says Martin Luther King is

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it was is it cut into it or is it is

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there an actual marker no it's cut into

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the marble it says Martin Luther King

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stood here when he gave the I Have a

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Dream speech and so if you don't know

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where it is you wouldn't be able to see

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it yeah and so I I showed a couple

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people that but it was so beautiful to

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go there at night yeah it was like if

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you go there during the day do your best

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to go back at night because it's it's

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almost a different experience right

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there's a little bit less people but

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like you said they they they're very

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intentional about their lighting setup

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um in a quick aside that actually was a

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disadvantage to one of the people in the

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in the area when we were there so we

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were we had gone inside I think we had

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done some additional filming yes taking

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some pictures or something like that and

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then all of a sudden like what did what

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did we hear so we walked down

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um some of the steps so you just need to

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be very aware the Lincoln Memorial is at

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the head of the reflecting pool right

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and around the reflecting pool is

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different levels of granite steps and

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you have to just be very aware of your

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footing and your steps because like I

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said it's dark they make it dark so the

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Lincoln Memorial kind of glows and you

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can rent those bikes

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e-bikes yes which are kind of plastic

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bikes yeah and there were a couple guys

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riding their bikes and all of a sudden

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we hear this huge crash plastic and it

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ought to be perfectly honest it didn't

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sound like a crash it sounded like a

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small explosion I mean that was the

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first thing that popped across my mind

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maybe that's the military in me but I

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mean everybody stopped because it just

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echoed yeah it was so loud and I think

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he was riding on one level and all of a

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sudden it jumped up to be about chest

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level granite and he just like and he

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plowed he plowed zero he probably didn't

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see it at all at all and I think it

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actually like it made it probably

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damaged the bike pretty good some of

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them have like these like plastic

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plastic box things on them or whatever

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like that I think that's what caused the

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sound it's one of these plastic boxing

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just kind of exploded off off of this

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and we were like oh my gosh what

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happened but uh it turns out like you

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know he had some buddies with him and he

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ended up being okay he was okay we

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checked don't worry we didn't just walk

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away he was he was just shocked and that

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bike I think was destroyed but so just

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be careful if you're out there at night

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it's very dark it's beautiful it's safe

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but you just need to be very aware of

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your footing especially around the

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Lincoln Memorial but it was so cool

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because you've seen it in movies a

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hundred times you've seen it in pictures

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growing up and in in school books and

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stuff like that light of the museum like

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at Night at the Museum I kept thinking

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of Forrest Gump yeah right I kept

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thinking of that like it was just so

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Sony Abraham Lincoln is seated and he

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has like a passive

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pose passive face kind of just looking

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out and he like I said it's the head of

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the reflecting pool so he is looking out

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onto the Washington Monument like that's

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what he sees so it's it's just like a

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very head place of the monument yeah it

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was it was really really neat it's

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actually surprisingly tricky to get an

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Uber over there yes so you you just like

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now they all know like where to drop

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people off and this that and the other

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but trying to get get picked up like

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again you have to be super aware of kind

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of where you're going to be and you like

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they're not just there's no common

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stopping spot no you know so that you

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have to like just kind of you know up

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your senses a little bit and it's a

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difficult City to drive yeah just be

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aware yeah I would I would highly

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recommend you know just taking an Uber

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or taxi Metro whatever

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um you I think we talked about this

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before the podcast you really can't park

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and drive anywhere no not around the

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mall you might be able to do it like one

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end but even then like I don't know

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where where you would park near the

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Jefferson Memorial no I think you might

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have to just park maybe by the capitol

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yeah and walk the other way and even

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that's really difficult so just

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recommend parking much further away Uber

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Metro and Metro and then just just plan

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on walking

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[Music]

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we stopped at the Vietnam memorial yes

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and that's always powerful it is so

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Vietnam memorial looks like a V yep and

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it was built in 1982

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it has 247 kind of like columns and it's

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58

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245 names of the people who gave their

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lives in order of Life lost yeah and of

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course I stopped there and left a flag I

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have a friend whose father was killed

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over Vietnam and he's still missing in

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action so I left a flag for him and it's

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it's people can leave anything there

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yeah and that's one of those places you

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will see wreaths you will see any

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people have left there was a group that

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left a Harley there really I didn't know

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that left a Harley motorcycle there holy

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cow so you can leave anything there

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you're allowed to leave anything out of

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that now I have all sorts of questions I

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know that's crazy awesome so like the DC

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like mall I'll just call them janitors

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like how the hell I don't even know how

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to ride a bike right you're like how do

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I get to start it gets probably sold I'm

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sure the money donated or something like

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that but yes you're allowed to leave

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anything one of the interesting was that

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the one that was designed by like a 25

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year old architecture or student 21 year

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old 21 year old that's that I found

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super interesting simplistic and

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Powerful yeah because of the v-shape

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yeah and then it has the three

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servicemen statue in bronze from that

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was in a 1984. yeah it's kind of off to

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the side and those you know they're it's

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the first African-American on the mall

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yeah so that's a really neat one because

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it kind of shows the Brotherhood of them

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all to together and the shared hardship

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kind of what that looked like is that is

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that with the one with the nurses so

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there's also the nurses and that's close

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by too and that was built in 1993. that

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was that was pretty neat and that's the

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three women nurses now it's

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it's a little inaccurate because no

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Vietnam nurses were ever in combat

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that's right and so they're they're kind

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of taking care of a wounded it's

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symbolic it's symbolic right yes but

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it's cool yeah so you have one like

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looking up probably looking for kind of

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like a air support sure and they're

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another one's tending to like the

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wounded soldier and another one's kind

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of like supporting both of them yeah so

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it's a very it's very cool but it's kind

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of like a together in unity kind of idea

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I think but what was neat that I never

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had seen before was that World War II

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Memorial

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all right that was that was honestly my

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favorite one

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I had never been to it I don't remember

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seeing pictures of it but that was

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honestly probably like one of the most

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moving ones for me it was it was it's

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huge and I think

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one of the reasons that I think it might

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have

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not not be as common commonly known or

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commonly seen in pictures these kids

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kind of set down it's set lower it's set

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it's set lower so you kind of walk and

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then you walk down into it and you kind

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of don't even notice it if you're

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looking at the reflecting pool it's

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along the way to the monument Washington

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Monument Washington Monument so it's not

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it's not impeding The View right right

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you can look past it and so you don't

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really even know it's there unless

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you're looking for it it was it was

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really really it's beautiful so it has

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like two Pavilions one for the Atlantic

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one for the Pacific so for each kind of

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front and then it has 56 pillars and

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they represent the states and the areas

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and the you know the Sovereign countries

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that fought in World War II yeah and

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then it has the stars for I think each

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star represents a hundred Americans and

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this

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4048 stars and so all the lives that

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were lost yeah in World War II and it's

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this big a kind of like water fountains

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and you can go down and the nice thing

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is like the kids loved it so you kind of

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walk down into this and the nice thing

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is if it's windy you kind of get out of

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the wind a little bit so it's very it's

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a little bit calmer down there minus the

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water yeah right and so it was just I

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was just caught completely flat-footed

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when I got up to it I was like man this

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is is beautiful and it reminded me of my

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grandparents yes right that generation

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the greatest Generation

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Um I I was just floored and honestly it

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probably was my favorite monument that

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we got to see relatively new 2004. yeah

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I didn't realize it was that new

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military new but it's such a neat one

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and I would definitely recommend if you

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haven't seen that to stop and see yeah

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and then from there you can is that

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where you walk right on to the

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Washington Monument yeah so of course

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Washington Monument that was one of the

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first monuments ever to be built and it

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took forever it took from 1848 to 1888

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because they stopped during the Civil

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War yeah right that's right yeah they're

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like hey guys we need money for the war

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stop building the monument so people

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always say the different color Stones

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because they were 1812. no the different

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color Stones is because they stopped

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during the Civil War and then when they

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went to Curry the Marvel they had to

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query from another place so that's what

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the different color stones are for

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um it was halted for 23 years they just

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you know didn't cut the funds but it's

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555 feet it's the tallest masonry

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Obelisk and it has 50 flags around it

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which are beautiful if they're all

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pristine beautiful American flags at a

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certain circle it and

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it has so it's supposed to have like

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kind of this meaning

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of the three branches of government

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right because you can see the White

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House from there you can see the capital

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and then you're supposed to be able to

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see the Supreme Court

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and so you're supposed to be able to

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represent the three branches are all

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equal and you know what I have seen it a

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bunch of times driving by it again I

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think this is the first time I actually

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walked all the way to it and you can

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walk up to it and like

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touch it yeah like lean on it like the

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kids sat down really I for some reason

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like in my head I just didn't think that

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right

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um but that's that's actually the case

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with most of these monuments is that you

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can just like walk right up and you can

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lean up against it and you know sit down

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and have lunch then

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then you're good to go yeah it's I mean

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it's there for you so after after the

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Washington Monument the reflecting pool

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ends yeah and then the rest of the mall

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is grass yeah and the capital is like

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behind yes you can keep walking there's

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more

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to see like so the James Garfield

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markers are further undone there's more

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information and stuff to see yeah then

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you're not far from the Smithsonian

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Institute and all the great place to

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picnic and they always have food trucks

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out there so it's just a really great

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family yeah I think we wrapped it up

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with there was they had an ice cream

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which is great it was like I was like

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this is perfect I mean we were like

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exhausted right you know we had we had

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walked I mean our kids held in there and

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I think that's just because we were

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walking the entire time so I was super

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proud of them I would say like the video

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this time probably wasn't as fun for me

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to make as actually doing the event this

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we got to walk so much we got to see so

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much we got to be walking through what's

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so iconic in our country and the

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National Mall is it's a bucket list trip

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for a lot of people and we were no

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exception so I felt lucky to be able to

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do this with my family as well as record

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it while covering all of the history

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that it contains

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and if you haven't seen our Washington

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Mall video I highly recommend it because

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perhaps you will learn something that

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you didn't know before

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so thank you again for listening to the

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talk with History Podcast and please

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reach out to us at our website talk with

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history.com but more importantly if you

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know someone else that might enjoy this

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please share this with them especially

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if you think today's topic would

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interest a friend shoot him a text tell

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them to look up the talk of History

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Podcast because we rely on you our

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community to grow and appreciate you all

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every day we'll talk to you next time

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thank you

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[Music]

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[Music]

About the Podcast

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Talk With History
A Historian and Navy Veteran talk about history inspired travels, their YouTube channel journey, and examine history through conversations with the curious, the explorers, and the history lovers out there

About your host

Profile picture for Scott Bennie

Scott Bennie

Host of the Talk With History podcast, Producer over at Walk with History on YouTube, Editor of the Hashtag Historic newsletter.