“Happy Birthday, D.C.!”
Now, that’s not a Washington-related slogan we’ve heard over the past couple of years! Feels pretty good to aim hopeful wishes in D.C.’s direction, so let’s say it again: “Happy Birthday, Washington D.C.!”
In August, ReadTheSpirit will be touring America, talking to Americans all around our nation. But, this weekend, we’ve got a chance to mark the the 220th anniversary of the nation’s capitol. On July 16 in 1790, in the heat of summer in the newly established America, the District of Columbia officially became the seat of the country’s government.
Although the original United States capital was in Philadelphia, government workers were forced to flee when a group of soldiers refused to leave government grounds because they had never been paid for services in the Revolutionary War. George Washington chose a site along the Potomac River for the capitol, and after debates concerning state debts, Northern and Southern interests and government safety, the Founding Fathers agreed that the District of Columbia would be the best choice for the nation’s seat. (Wikipedia has details.) In September of the following year, commissioners would undergo the naming process when they termed the federal district “The Territory of Columbia” and the federal city “The City of Washington”—thus, Washington, DC. Today, Washington DC is a government hub and a popular tourist destination, chock-full of museums, monuments, stores and more. (Get the political perspective at DC.gov, or a tourist point of view at Washington.org.)
Of course, Washington DC always is front-page news around the world. In the religious realm, DC made headlines recently for legalizing same-sex marriage last March, and although area pastors recently argued that residents would likely vote against gay marriage if given the chance, the DC Court of Appeals blocked popular vote, claiming that the arguments violated human rights law. (The Christian Science Monitor reported on this story.) Islam has also been a hot topic lately, as France’s National Assembly moved forward in banning the face-covering veils worn by Muslim women in public; some Washington DC officials, on the other hand, made public affirmations that they would not restrict this religious freedom in the name of security. According to officials, religious symbols—such as a veil—are as much an example of religious freedom as a group of Christians praying in a church. (Check out a thought-provoking article and photo at USAToday.com.)