45 words that changed our world

The Newseum, under construction for what felt like an eternity, was finally open when I was in DC this fall. I'm a voracious news junkie and could have easily spent all day in this innovative museum dedicated to all-things news. As it was, I spent about 4 hours and still wanted more. I won't go so far as to say it changed my life, but it came close. The highlights according to me:

Berlin Wall Gallery. Eight sections of the infamous 12-foot wall are on display in the Newseum. I know the stories, I've seen the movies, I have memories of what my history book told me, and most importantly I vividly remember that our cultural ambassadors known as The New Kids on the Block played an instrumental role in its demise; but it wasn't until I saw the wall with my own eyes and touched it with my own hands (don't tell the docent) that I really got it. I was awe struck by the power of the images. As the placard stated so well, "The Berlin Wall was strong enough to stop a tank, but it couldn't stop news from getting into East Germany by word of mouth, smuggled messages or radio and television." That is such an incredible statement of the power of people acting successfully against systems of oppression. I love it.

News History Gallery. If I were to get lost in the Newseum for days on end, you could probably find me combing the front pages of history. This exhibit was mind blowing in scale. You pull out drawer after preserved drawer of famous front pages from around the world, all discussing the most significant moments in human history. I stood for no less than five minutes staring at the Wonder Woman Ms. cover. How lucky are we to have these resource available to us in such an extensive, beautiful archive?

9-11 Gallery. It's difficult to describe the thoughts that flood your mind, staring up at a three-storey wall of newspapers dated the day after the attacks on the pentagon and World Trade Center. Newspapers in every possible language shared our shock and our horror. The world cried with us and stood with us as we tried to make sense of what happened. Within our own borders we were united in a way we hadn't experienced in a generation, certainly never in my lifetime. We had such an opportunity to harness that energy. We had an opportunity to begin a long-overdue dialgoue. We had an opportunity to collaborate in ways we've never thought possible. Instead, our illustrious administration told us to shop. We turned on mind-numbing "reality" television, our dissenting voices were silenced, our civil liberties quietly abolished. We took what could have been a profound turning point toward a more peaceful world and created one catastrophic clusterf**k after another. It's difficult to go back to 9-12-2001 and realize what we squandered.

45 Words of Freedom. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." 45 words. The First Amendment in our Bill of Rights. 45 words that drastically changed the world as we know it. Nowhere is the democratic experiment as robust as in the United States and I would argue that the freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition is the very backbone of that experiment. This gallery in the Newseum puts "each of the five freedoms in historical context and [provides] perspective on what they mean to us more than 200 years later." There is a documentary highlighting each of these five freedoms, stuffed full of historical footage and stirring narration; but it's not for sale. Not even in the gift shop. Don't bother asking. Believe me, I tried.

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