Washington, D.C. (“D.C.”) has been called many things by many people. Charles Dickens once called it a “City of Magnificent Intentions” because in his time it had yet to fulfill the august aspirations of its founders. During the era in which the Truman Doctrine was formulated, the Marshall Plan was created, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was established, Clark Clifford, an influential political advisor to several Democratic Presidents, described D.C. as the “capital of the world.” My personal favorite, however, is one of the city’s earliest nicknames — the “American Rome.” The nickname reflected the hopes George Washington had for the city that bore his name. His vision was that D.C. would become not only a polestar of politics but also a cynosure of commerce.
Today, D.C. still could be described as a “City of Magnificent Intentions” — it continues to embody America’s noblest ambitions, many of which are yet to be achieved. It also arguably remains the “capital of the world” — its global influence and footprint have expanded exponentially since the days of President Truman. But I believe the “American Rome” most accurately captures what D.C. has become — a confluence of cultures, a center of national and international political power, a concourse of commerce, a stronghold of matchless military might, and a fulcrum of economic prosperity.
Like ancient Rome, D.C. also is a city of contrasts and contradictions — its streets are populated by princes and paupers; its corridors of power house our highest virtues and entertain our basest corruptions; it is a temple of atheism and religion, of skeptics and saints; its monuments are stoic historians and silent heralds, stone memorials celebrating America’s past glories and majestic oracles anticipating its future promise.
I hope you will join me as I journal my journey through life, ministry, and history in the American Rome.