Monday, April 11, 2011

15 for 15

Blogs were started so ordinary people could voice their opinions, share their stories or whatever without having to work for major media and be credentialed just to say what's on their mind. This is a good thing. It allows us to accept or reject the information presented to us in an equally powerful way. Take for example yet another interesting article on CNN.Com about the 15 places in the United States that young Americans should see before the age of 15.

Included in that list was a lot of colonial history, including Boston's Freedom Trail, Williamsburg, Independence Hall in Philadelphia and of course Washington, DC. It also came with strange things like Disneyworld. Really? A theme park? Some responders to the article decried popular favorites in their parts of the country while other, more altruistic replies included suggestions to visit any country in the Caribbean or Central America far less well off than our own. He did have a point....over-stimulated and under-motivated American teens loaded with cash and gadgets actually being told to discover America at Disneyworld!

The beauty of the blog is not necessarily having to submit to committee and then debate for hours the relevant content or, in this case, the list of things the idle youth should see before real cynicism sets in. In my list I have been to 11 of the 15, some as early as Age 5 and others as recently as last year. To keep things simple I will offer more on the reason for going than simply listing the obvious and/or endless attractions associated with the destination itself.

1. Grand Canyon - One of many ways the sheer power of nature and time combine in to something so spectacular. Want to be alone and experience something greater than the self? Go to the canyon.
2. Washington DC - Like Muslims to Mecca every American of means should see the nation's capitol. Not even so much for the museums. If we're talking about 15 year olds what teenager wouldn't love to toss a football on the Mall or just lay out and snooze the day away in the heart of the city.
3. New York City - Challenge any teenager in the one city that truly says if you can make it here then you can make it anywhere. Find out what they're made of from Harlem to Hell's Kitchen.
4. A Southern Plantation - CNN suggested Monticello but there the focus is more on Jefferson. Pick any plantation in the south to feel the brutal heat and the sting of mosquitoes while laboring six days a week over cotton, tobacco and other cash crops.
5. Pearl Harbor - Where a superpower was born thanks to impossible odds and unbelievable logistics. No teenager will turn down a day at the beach, either.
6. Mt Rushmore/Crazy Horse - This is a place of ultimate irony, where the teenager can begin to understand the pride of a nation while coming face to face with the death of another.
7. Buffalo/Niagara Falls - Wings, working folks and water, lots of water. But also another key station in human migration across the home of the free. The Underground Railroad went through here.
8. San Francisco - No city blends nature, brass and bohemia like San Francisco. Whatever community your teenager feels outcast from every cast-off and outcast in society has its own neighborhood, carved with fierce pride from the hills of the bay.
9. Cape Canaveral - Teen boys and girls can marvel and the wonders of space exploration and feel a chest-thumping pride at the sight of a major launch. What better place to reach for the stars than the hub of celestial activity?
10. Austin/San Antonio - The beating heart of one state among 50 that was once its own country and, according to legend and true believers retains the option to one day be a country again.
11. St. Louis - What teenager will believe the United States' western border was once this city in the center of the country? What better place to prove it than the Show-Me State under the Gateway Arch?
12. Denver/Colorado Springs - After the frontier town of St. Louis the teenager might truly begin to develop a sense of the resolve of his ancestors in climbing over the Rockies to continue westward towards the ocean. And some will really get a kick out of the Air Force Academy and the headquarters of the US Olympic Committee here as well.
13. Anchorage/Mt. McKinley/Denali - Nature at its frozen best with nowhere near the crowds of the Grand Canyon and just as majestic. A few good moose for good measure, too.
14. Boston - Boston politics is as rebellious and contrary today as it was when the original tea party took place. And the sports are as partisan as the politics. Any sharp-tongued teenager will feel right at home in Beantown and see more than a few good colleges to think about as well.
15. Any rural farming community - It is debatable if America's poor are still better off than those in Haiti or El Salvador but one good trip to the Gulf Coast will show any beating heart that charity can and does begin at home.

Gotta go.

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