Flags representing all states and territories during inaugural ceremonies on the National Mall. (Photo: Timothy Clary/AFP)
Last week’s Lightning Update on Public Access and Democracy started a conversation about the importance of public spaces in bringing people together. We asked you to share your own memories of common experiences when being together outdoors united people. Here are some of your stories.
While serving as the National Park Service Deputy Director with Director Roger Kennedy, one day I found myself with him atop the steps of the now removed plaza on the second block north of the front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Both Roger and I were in uniform.
Suddenly, a large official-looking car drove up and stopped. Out stepped the mayor of Philadelphia. He greeted Roger from the bottom of the steps and then demanded Roger ban demonstrations on the first block in front of Independence Hall because, in the mayor’s mind, it was hurting tourism to Philadelphia.
Roger, tall, straight, the visual epitome of a National Park Ranger, waited a moment, and then, still looking down at the mayor from above, said quietly and sternly, “I will never hinder the opportunity for citizens to protest in front of the very place that the Constitution of the United States was written and our democracy formed.”
Not another word was spoken. The eloquence of those words combined with the symbolic eloquence of that place still resonate in me, and every day inform my view about the relationship between our government and its citizens.
While I have this opportunity, I will comment on last week’s inauguration. Yes, the Mall was empty. But, as I watched on TV, I could not help but think about how the event was transformed to a view of some of the great symbols of our nation…all a part of a great national park…as opposed to the normal view of adulation by a crowd of people for a person. It was as though the view was of what we strive to be, not about any one person.
John J. Reynolds
It’s not too late to share your own story of a moment when public spaces brought people together. Do it now. It just takes a few minutes.
Don’t forget to send us your 2020 land conservation success stories as they develop. They’ll land in the new and growing collection at success.chesapeakeconservation.org, a tool we can all use to show collective impact. See the checklist below for easy-to-follow, simple guidelines.