Colin Powell’s eyes looked up at me, his youthfulness spoke of another place and time. Beside him, his infantry nametag lay just to the left, made of wood and aged over time. Where was he when he used this carved out simple introduction? I scanned the room of the National Defense University Library and wondered if I had just entered the Colin Powell Room, or was this just another hidden gem that American citizens were unaware existed…
The real Colin Powell was somewhere else. But his life was spread out in front of me on tables and shelves full of photos and artifacts of years gone by. Those around me stood as I did, in awe of the enormity of accolades and achievements that this one person held in his lifetime.
We were the lucky few that would silently move among tables of curio cabinets that provided a glimpse into this distinguished general’s life. Most Americans would never see the gifts bestowed upon this great man, as we were seeing them now. There were so many.
I moved on, noticing that the room housed more objects of interests from other famous leaders of our nation. Behind me, there were oohs and awws, and discussions of the treasures housed in this quiet library room that only the leaders of America were allowed to tread…and their spouses, of course. This was just another hidden pearl of a room that most American’s had no clue existed. And why is that? What are these treasures?
A set of ivory swords, a castle made of gold, a set of ancient Chinese books, statues, paintings… they all are gifts bestowed on leaders of America. Leaders, who represent the United States of America, and can’t personally keep treasures from other nations and leaders. The gifts are graciously accepted on behalf of our nation, are turned over to lawyers, and then over to curators or historians to be cataloged and housed somewhere in one of the many national buildings across our country. There are hallways and office spaces that contain collections of priceless artifacts from around the world. It is said that the Department of State has one of the finest collections of gifts any nation as ever seen…Yet, no one visits this collection unless they have a top secret security clearance. It’s a shame really, so many remarkable relics to take in and enjoy.
So, what did I do while I was attending a conference in this beautiful university? You guessed it. I began to take photos of these wonderful and unique gifts that Americans have not seen. Photos that show the unique friendship we have with nations like China, Mayasia, Australia, Germany, Russia…You get the picture. I wanted to show Americans that through these many wonderful gifts given to us, we are a nation valued and appreciated. The gifts are there to remind us of the friendships and treaties we have made with others to bring peace to our world… And every time a leader passes by one of these overfilled cabinets, he or she, will know there is hope….because we too have given gifts as well…and they are housed in capitols all over the world, as a reminder to foreign leaders that together we can make a difference. One day, perhaps all Americans will stand where I have stood, and be proud that we have rooms and rooms of such gifts.
Hallways of National Defense University