I will never forget my first visit to Washington DC. I was 17 years old and traveling with a choir of high school-aged kids from various churches in our state. We visited Arlington Cemetery, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the Smithsonian.
The highlight of the visit, however, was singing in the rotunda of the U.S. capitol for one of our senators. As Henry “Scoop” Jackson looked on, we belted out the words to “This is My Country.”
Now 49 years later, I had the opportunity to tour our nation’s capitol again. Mr. Lincoln, seated on his throne, is just as imposing as I remembered him. The Marine Corps Memorial at Arlington Cemetery recalling the flag planting at Iwo Jima remains a must-see.
But much has changed since the summer of 1969. There are several memorials that have been added: The Vietnam Wall, the World War 2 and Korean War Memorials and the MLK statue. The Newseum was an exceptional repository chronicling the way news has been reported through the centuries. As a news junkie, I was fascinated by the history of American media including newspapers, radio and television.
But the highlight of this summer’s visit was touring the White House. Although we had driven by it in 1969, I had never set foot in it until this trip. A Congressman friend helped my wife and I secure tickets to see the historic home of our nation’s First Family. It was a dream come true.
As we stood in the first-floor rooms of the president’s residence, I imagined the presidents of my lifetime who have walked these same halls. Beginning with Truman all the way to Trump, I pictured leaders of the free world entertaining their counterparts. The portraits on the walls called to mind chief executives who challenged the status quo and effected positive change as well as those who stumbled ethically and morally.
Our hour-long self-guided tour of the White House reminded me that presidents come and go and yet this elegant home symbolizes a lasting democracy. Our visit was a memory jogger that all presidents have their strengths and their weaknesses. Each one stands in need of God’s wisdom and blessing. Each one is vulnerable to their own ego and our prejudice. No wonder St. Paul entreats the Christians of the first century to intercede for those in authority.
But then a thought occurred to me.
While the Scriptures entreat us to pray for governmental leaders, the inhabitants of the White House aren’t the only ones on God’s radar. The Creator is just as concerned about those who occupy your house and mine. In fact, the long-term health of our nation will most likely be determined by the moral condition of those governed as much as by the integrity (or lack thereof) of those who govern.
Reflecting on my visit to the White House, I have a renewed commitment to seek Divine guidance on behalf of our president. But that is not the only action step I can take. I can also decide on a daily basis to follow the advice of the Hebrew prophet Micah. “To do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.”
Rev. Greg Asimakoupoulos is the full-time chaplain at Covenant Shores Retirement Community on Mercer Island. He is the faith and values columnist for the Mercer Island Reporter and contributes original poetry each Blue Friday to KOMO news radio.