TODAY they are dedicating the Vietnam veterans' memorial on the Mall. The argument over the memorial dissolves the moment you get there. You enter through maples to a glade in which sits the already familiar sunken black granite V. Its wings seem to enfold not only the sacrifice of the nearly 58,000 American dead and missing who are listed, legibly, in the order of their dying, but also all those who come to pay homage or simply to stand or wander in the presence of the stone.
Every individual will bring his own special feelings to this scene and find his own special message in it. We came with curiosity and not a little apprehension stirred by the several harsh years of debate over the aesthetic and political merits of the proposal. We found that the memorial is becoming and humbling in appearance and mood and that its intended theme of reconciliation is beautifully served.
It is impossible to stand in the proximate aura of this emotionally glowing place without feeling a flood of sadness and pride for those who died in Vietnam, and for those who served at their side. The design does it, the setting does it and the names do it. We are not sure where the idea came from that wars should be remembered through the representation of an unknown soldier. This memorial makes the soldiers known, and the effect is strong and clean, like morning sunlight. You can imagine thousands of private communions taking place, for as long as the country tends to its past, between those mourning the listed dead and missing, and the marks on the granite. Yet this will be done in the nation's premier symbolic public place.
The memorial is a superb physical addition to Washington's monument area. It advances the idea of the national capital as a city where the country's formative experiences are created and recreated, in politics, legend and art. It expresses the respect for service and accommodation with the past from which our strenuous and diverse nation must constantly take new strength.