The amazing gift of James Smithson and Veterans Day

A November trip to Washington D.C. inspires one to, well, look out and up. Especially when walking on the National Mall and visiting the Smithsonian. Ironically, this most-American of all public institutions (it’s now grown to 19 museums and galleries plus the National Zoo), was seeded by a gift of the estate of British scientist James Smithson. And it wasn’t just any seed–at the time of Smithson’s 1829 passing it was 1/66th of the entire federal budget! Shows you what 100,000 gold sovereigns can do.

And in that spirit of looking up, nothing compares to the centerpiece Air and Space Museum on the National Mall. I always orient myself when I walk in that building by identifying the Ryan NYP (New York-Paris), aka the Spirit of St. Louis, hanging from the rafters. Then I’ll invariably look down and see, in no particular order, the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecrafts. Then I’ll be thirsty for a glass of Tang. I mean, it’s like clockwork.

At the instant of this post, and with the greatest honor, it is indeed the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Veterans Day always gives me the chills. It’s because, of course, the famous tagline of the Armistice (The War To End All Wars) took only two decades to become obsolete. But when you get a chance to soak in the science, the advancements, and the notion that literally even the sky isn’t the limit, you see a larger beauty in the message delivered by the Air and Space. It’s surely hopeful–and remains captivating to every new generation in a way unique to each of us. Whereas it’s Tang for me, Zoe thought the idea of a WWI pilot needing a sword was the coolest thing she’d ever seen.

Zoe and WWI pilot gear

Zoe and WWI pilot gear

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