Updated: December 15, 2012 6:33AM
On Nov. 13, 1982, 58,195 veterans were honored for their service at the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial by the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The dream of a small band of determined Vietnam veterans, led by a former Army infantryman, Jan Scruggs, became a reality.
As controversial as the war itself, the V-shaped, black, polished granite wall would come to embody what Scruggs envisioned — “reflective” and “contemplative,” in “harmony with its surroundings,” and containing the names of those killed and missing but making “no political statement about the war.”
Out of 1,421 entries submitted in a contest for the memorial’s design, one by a 21-year-old Yale architectural student, Maya Lin, was chosen. At first, many balked at what they felt was its nonconformist design, but 30 years later “The Wall” has become one of our country’s most popular landmarks. About 3 million people visit the memorial each year.
In 2003, Congress authorized creation of the Vietnam Veterans Educational Center, which is scheduled to open on Veterans Day 2014. It will tell the story behind the names of those who answered the final call to duty, leaving a legacy for future generations. A legacy of pride, and a nation’s gratitude long overdue.
All aboard high-speed rail future
I was among those giddy passengers on the inaugural Amtrak train ride referenced in your Oct. 25 editorial, “High-speed rail brings skepticism.” Why were we giddy? We’re finally moving forward with a viable modern alternative to cars and planes in the Midwest.
High-speed trains operating at 110 mph can help grow the Midwest economy and bolster its business centers. They make sense for business travelers who can get productive work done while going downtown-to-downtown on a fast train instead of shuttling to airports and dealing with deteriorating airline service.
They help leisure travelers get around more easily on weekends to see friends and family, shop and enjoy sports and cultural events in our great places. When fully built out, the Midwest high-speed rail network will connect 40 of our largest cities, bringing millions of visitors to Illinois each year.
With airlines cutting flights and raising fares, highways becoming more clogged and gasoline prices persistently high, better intercity rail service is a smart and affordable transportation option. Trains pollute less than cars and airplanes on a per-passenger-mile basis, so further rail development can also help alleviate our global warming problems.
You questioned the demand. A record 31 million Americans boarded Amtrak last year. Ridership has doubled between Chicago and St. Louis in recent years, even before high-speed service has been introduced.
You questioned the $1.2 billion investment that’s enabling high-speed rail between Chicago and St. Louis. How does that compare to a $15 billion O’Hare Airport expansion? How about a 17-mile Elgin-O’Hare Expressway extension for $3.4 billion? Transportation investments are never cheap, but they are the foundation of our economy.
When the high-speed rail network is done, we look forward to shooting you an email as we comfortably zip between the great cities of the Midwest.
Deputy director, Environmental Law & Policy Center