District’s World War I memorial will not be national memorial


A statue of Gen. John Pershing stands in Pershing Park, at 14th and Pennsylvania NW on September 12, 2012 in Washington, D.C. Some Washingtonians support Pershing Park as the site of a national World War I memorial. (John Kelly/THE WASHINGTON POST)
John Kelly
Columnist September 12, 2012

Score a rare victory for the District: Congress has decided not to turn the city’s World War I memorial into the nation’s World War I memorial.

It remains to be seen whether Washington will ever get a national monument to the Great War.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

On Tuesday, Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.) visited the House subcommittee on national parks to tout H.R. 6364, his bill that would put a national WWI memorial in Constitution Gardens. His hope is that the World War I Memorial Foundation can raise $10 million and put some suitable statuary in Constitution Gardens.

A Department of the Interior official testified that Constitution Gardens falls under Congress’s prohibition against new construction on the Mall. Making an exception would set a dangerous precedent.

Judy Scott Feldman of the National Coalition to Save Our Mall echoed those concerns. She lamented the fact that no one seems to be in charge of the Mall and said that packing its west end with war memorials doesn’t leave much room to tell other American stories, stories of our scientists and artists.

Edwin L. Fountain of the memorial foundation said the United States is lagging far behind the efforts of its allies France and Britain when it comes to marking the centennial of the war.

And poor Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.) was there to remind people that there’s already a very nice World War I museum and memorial in Kansas City. No offense, but K.C. isn’t D.C.

Joe Grano, a D.C. politics gadfly who thought that nationalizing D.C.’s memorial would have amounted to a slap at the city’s voting rights status, thinks the best place for a World War I memorial is Pershing Park, at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. It’s already related to the conflict, as it honors Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing, who commanded U.S. forces in Europe.

Edwin said his group wouldn’t support the Pershing Park location.

I visited both sites Wednesday. Like a lot of our parks these days, Pershing Park is looking poorly, but the area is well traveled and has a certain vitality. And I like Joe’s idea of adding a World War I-era tank and biplane as part of the memorial. That would be so cool!

Constitution Gardens is a more reflective location. The bill calls for using 1.5 acres, enough room to dig a big trench of the sort that featured so prominently in World War I.

As long as the design itself is fitting, either space seems fine to me. Of course, battles over the design are still to come.

The hunger games

I imagine that Adrienne Pine, the American University professor who breast-fed her sick baby during class, is mortified by all the attention she’s received, though posting a lengthy screed online about why she was right and everyone else was wrong is a funny way of showing it. And I expect there’ll be a round of “suckle-bombing” at AU, with activists feeding their kids in classrooms all over campus.

The episode wouldn’t be quite so entrancing if Pine hadn’t been teaching a class called “Sex, Gender & Culture.” I can’t see it getting quite so much attention if it had been “Introduction to Mathematical Statistics.”

But sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar.

What I mean is, we shouldn’t react negatively because Pine is a woman and a mother or because breast-feeding in public is wrong. The point is, she did what she did while giving a lecture.

But breast-feeding is natural, you say. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. That’s true. And so is cleaning your teeth. So is feeding yourself. If AU students had tweeted “Eww gross, my professor is flossing right now” or “Teacher just scarfed her second yogurt” we’d think the teacher was being unprofessional, that she was doing something that could have waited.

Gender roles, the male gaze, the dialectics of breast-feeding — none of these are really the issue. Professors are right to want undivided attention in the classroom. Students are right to expect the same from professors.

Fillmore or less

Todd E. Smith, an AP U.S. history teacher at Southern High School in Anne Arundel County, was among those who pointed out that, contrary to my Wednesday column, Millard Fillmore was not “elected” president in 1850. He ascended to the presidency after the death of Zachary Taylor.

Wrote Todd: “I tell my students all the time that the devil is in the details; and while this oversight is minor in the grand scheme of things, it undermines the overall credibility and reliability of the article.”

To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

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