This weekend’s commemoration of our nation’s 234th Independence Day will include the usual parades, family cookouts, and fireworks, but some other recent events also highlight the breadth and depth of what we treasure in America when we celebrate the Fourth of July.
The freedoms we frequently take for granted are unattainable in many parts of the world, and newcomers to our country often make great sacrifices to share in our freedoms. Many also make an effort to “give back” to their adopted home. Giving back was an important theme for this weekend’s re-opening of the Thomas Jefferson Library (TJ), as well as the groundbreaking for a Korean Bell Garden at Meadowlark Gardens.
Planning for the renovations at TJ already was underway when Toa Do and a small group of Vietnamese-American residents suggested an addition: a Gateway to Freedom, which created a unique walkway to the main entrance of the library. The area is adorned with brick pavers, each engraved with the name of a donor. The Gateway to Freedom Project Committee, created by the Vietnamese-American community to thank Americans, raised $45,300 through the sale of the bricks. In addition to the walkway, the project committee donated more than 2000 Vietnamese-language books for a special reading area. The donation adds to more than 800 Vietnamese-language children’s books purchased through a grant from ExxonMobil. Donors were recognized at a special evening reception on Friday night, followed by the grand re-opening of the library on the following morning.
Saturday was not a quiet day at TJ. When was the last time (or the first time?) you witnessed a dragon dance in a library? A lively green dragon, accompanied by a traditional Vietnamese drummer, entertained folks at the door, and then proceeded into the new library to the amazed looks of patrons. Eighteen new computer stations were quickly snapped up, and a quick over-the-shoulder look revealed both scholarly research and computer gaming. Parents sat on the floor reading books to their toddlers, and more than one youngster was seen checking out a stack of books for summer reading. TJ’s hours, effective today, are Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed on Sundays.
In another thank you to America, the Korean American Cultural Committee (KACC), chaired by a radiant Jeung-Hwa Elmjjad Yi, broke ground for a traditional Korean Bell Garden that will be installed on the grounds of Meadowlark Gardens, a Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority property in Vienna. The KACC has been working for several years to find an appropriate location and raise funds for the garden, which will commemorate the friendship of the Korean and American people. In program remarks, Jeung-Hwa noted that “the groundbreaking is particularly meaningful as we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the unforgettable Korean War.” The garden will feature a traditional pavilion for the unique bell, water features, native plantings, and pathways and seating for contemplation. Matthew Lee, KACC executive committee member, told the assembled audience that he came to America with nothing but a dream and a desire for freedom. Earning a Ph.D. here, he celebrates his personal and business success by giving back to his adopted community. “Only in America,” he said, “only in America. Thank you.” The bell garden is expected to open in the spring of 2011.
Only in America…Happy 4th of July!
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org