Universal outstanding value is a matter of perspective. This U.O.V. is the foundation of the World Heritage Convention. Thus a matter of outstanding value differs amongst individuals. Sites such as Plymouth Rock, Gettysburg, and the Boston Harbor are not world heritage sites. Yet these sites carry a story many Americans would be able to give a rough summary of the events that occurred there. These historical places are sites that promote American heritage. For me seeing the sacrifices made to protect the ideals of our founding fathers greatly changed my view of U.O.V.
I was fresh out of my eighth grade history class and I thought I knew the world. It was my schools annual Washington D.C. trip; I was fortunate enough to go. We had just gotten done viewing the towering Washington memorial. I remember being impressed by its height, symmetry and pristine color. It was the very archetype of aesthetics. However, just as quickly as we jumped off the bus the students were loaded back on. “Wow”, I thought to myself “that was impressive!”
After a short drive on a bus filled with hormones, we stopped at our final destination for the day. I peered out the window, and saw a plain of grass with a long black angular trench. As I exited the bus I could tell from my teachers change of demeanor that this was an important place. I was looking at the Vietnam Veterans memorial. I stood at the start of the memorial. The structure consisted of two equally sized marble-like triangles that are long and are inverted into the ground so the top of the memorial is the same level as the grass around it. After our instructor reminded the class of the war and the horrors of it she gave a simple instruction, “Walk to the other side and be polite”.
As I walked I saw the first name, then the second and the third. I continued to walk and as I did the number of names began to rise until the names towered above me. I made it halfway through the memorial and had an epiphany. These are not just names these were people. Each name carried with it a life and all of the complexity and wonder of life. These soldiers, though not all of them wanted to be there, fought and died for American ideals. I knelt and touched the wall of names. “Thank you” I whispered under my breath. I continued to walk along the path and on my horizon I saw the Washington monument. Now each step I took brought me up until finally I was looking down on the memorial.
The memorial was so much more than a list of names that were underground. The memorial told the story of sacrifice that a nation made. Despite Vietnam as being one of the most protested wars in the United States recent history this memorial is significant and should be remembered. I felt that this site changed my way of thinking about the importance of outstanding value. Seeing the Washington monument in the distance commemorated the actions of one man. It is grand and is aesthetically pleasing. However the Vietnam memorial is the sacrifices of thousands. I began thinking about the meaning behind the monuments, the intangible significance of the memorials. The grandeur of a monument is important but the implication of sites is what I now focus on.