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AALP Class 13 North American Study Tour Day 7

Sunday, July 11, 2010 - We started our day at 10:00 a.m. with the bus dropping our group off in the heart of Washington DC in the National Mall area.

Most members visited the Smithsonian Institute Natural History Museum. A high level of security was obvious everywhere and in every building visitors must go through X-ray machines, metal detectors and security checks. There is no doubt that the effects of 911 are still evident. Ironically, there is no charge to go into any of the Smithsonian Institute buildings.

At the museum, AALP class members took in a variety of exhibits relating to many topics, including: dinosaurs; evolution of mankind; and precious minerals including the Hope diamond. When seeing the remains of a brachiosaurus one can only be left in awe of the pure magnitude of these ancient creatures. As we moved through the museum sixty million years after their existence, we see the beginning of human evolution. This is a fascinating topic and no doubt there are individuals that agree and others that disagree with Darwin’s theories. The exhibit at the Smithsonian does make a very compelling argument in favor of evolution. One observation from the dinosaur and human evolution displays that can not be disputed is, the relatively small amount of time humans have spent on this earth.

Although we may be affecting our planet’s climate to some extent, the exhibits held a compelling argument that climate change is inevitable and a natural occurrence through time.

In the afternoon we visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Quiet reverence was the tone for the afternoon. This was a very somber time of reflection with some AALP members sharing stories of war time events within their families. One AALP member shared the story of his uncle Jack who escaped from a rail car transporting people to a Nazi concentration camp. The family said that Uncle Jack was never the same after that event. There was an exhibit in the museum that allowed people to walk through a rail car that was used to transport people in WWII. This was a moment that demonstrated the horrible realities of this conflict. Class members were also shocked to learn of the calculated planning of the Nazis to exterminate people with different values and beliefs. Imagine coming home to find that your family had vanished because of your beliefs? One of the most disturbing displays within the holocaust museum was a quote near the end of the tour which stated “NEVER AGAIN”. Genocide has happened since and is happening today in our world. Society has not learned from the past in this circumstance.

In the evening we gathered on the bus for a night tour of Washington DC’s monuments and buildings. Our tour guide Kenny provided a great deal of insight in to the lives of some of America’s most respected leaders. When you count the millions of people who visit these beautiful memorials each year, the patriotism of this country’s people cannot be questioned.

At the end of the day, we were all physically and mentally tired. Many miles of walking in 90 degree weather is starting to get the best of us. The quiet ride home was due to a lot of reflection and sheer numbness. A good rest is needed by all.

David Ferguson, Henry Lise, Tim Williams – AALP Class 13

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