A Nelson Mandela statue for Washington, DC

London erected a statue of Mandela in 2007, and it is past time for us to do the same. The time of the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom March and Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream Speech," is also an especially pertinent and evocative time to celebrate the coming unveiling of a Washington, DC Mandela monument.

In December 2008, I wrote an opinion piece in the DC neighborhood newspaper The Dupont Current (please see - http://www.currentnewspapers.com/admin/uploadfiles/D%20Dec.%2031%201.pdf ) in which I suggested replacing the statue of Civil War general and Abraham Lincoln-presidential opponent George McClellan with a statue of Nelson Mandela.  I still believe this would have been the best place for a Nelson Mandela monument as this pleasing and high perch at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and Florida Avenue has a two-fold international character: first, it is very near the foreign embassy hub; and second, it is right about where two very eclectic and international D.C. neighborhoods, Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan, blend. However, the news of a Nelson Mandela statue nearby in the embassy area is truly cause for celebration, and there has been advanced commentary that the statue is impressively wrought.

The George McClellan statue should still be replaced because George McClellan is an equivocal figure in United States history, and was, at best, insensitive on the issue of slavery.   At that site and at this time, the McClellan statue lacks resonance and attraction.  Perhaps, the George McClellan statue can be moved to a less frequented place, and another great champion of freedom can be commemorated at this much-traversed intersection.  For example, one of the great and passionate drafters of the 14th Amendment -- which would after many decades of neglect prove to be the key breakthrough for genuine freedom and equality in post-Civil War America -- such  as John Bingham of Ohio, or, closer  to our time, someone like Thurgood Marshall or Chief Justice Earl Warren would be a better fit for that beautiful location.

Yet the coming Nelson Mandela statue by the South African Embassy is reason enough to celebrate. A sense of affinity with the people of South Africa is expressed, at the same time we are refreshed with new thinking and ideas about our nation's cherishing freedom.

At a time of polarized politics, the Washington, DC Nelson Mandela statue might even surprise and reveal the consensus and good will to which we aspire.  

Blaustein is a freelance environmental journalist and 20-year Washington, D.C. resident.  

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