Not one, but two Nobel Prizes
More history and government than commerce today, we decided, and started our day at the Georgia State Capitol, just down the road. First fun was getting in there. We’ve already established that I don’t have photographic id and the two charming security chaps spent a while working a way round their rules and regs, finally accepting evidence of my home address and trusting my good character.
First surprise: The Georgia Capitol building is a workplace more than a showpiece. We went straight to the 4th floor where there was a collection of historic ephemera telling the story of the history of the state legislature.
There were a few interesting artefacts too, including this tote bag promoting “participation above partisanship”.
I was especially interested in the “ERA” cabinet, learning for the first time that women still do not have equal rights in every state. Mary was able to explain the details of course and we both knew that, were we living in one of these non-ERA states, we’d be out there campaigning!
Mind you, I’m not sure I’d want to be part of this kind of society.
We peered into the House
and then into the Senate, which, if we understood correctly, sit for around just one month per year.
We chatted a while to the lady at the visitor desk who encouraged us to step inside the Governor’s office and sign his book. His door had a very grand handle (!) and expecting a great crrreeeeeaaaak as I opened it, I ventured nervously inside.
I needn’t have worried. The man himself wasn’t in the office this morning and his PA was utterly charming. I signed his book and received some Georgia Peanuts from him in return. I’m ashamed to admit that right then, I didn’t even know his name, but Mr Deal, thank you!
OK, from the Capitol, then, to the next place of interest. More than that, though, for this is a National Historic Site: the Martin Luther King centre, comprising his birthplace, his church, a visitor centre and his grave.
We began at the Visitor Centre, where a short film gave us the background information to his life and work. Some of it was familiar, but it was interesting to fill in the gaps and learn more about the context of his work. There was an exhibition too, with this “march” as a centrepiece and small round pods on various themes around it. For some reason, this didn’t quite float my boat and I couldn’t help feeling that there must be more somewhere. Not that there wasn’t plenty of information here – if anything, there was too much to stand and read at that time.
So we progressed to the next step, the memorial pool with the tomb set there at the end. We were surprised that a figure of such national importance was commemorated in such suburban surroundings and felt that in some way, his contribution to US history had been under-valued.
A small exhibit in the hall nearby was similarly underwhelming with a few of his possessions and those of his wife, Coretta Scott King. It was here we came upon the first Nobel Medal of the day, though.
From here, we went over to his birthplace but with the first timed entry available for late afternoon, had to make do with a view from outside.
I was pleased we’d visited the centre and certainly learned plenty about the man, his wife and his work, but I left feeling uninspired and rather disappointed by the whole experience. I felt sure that such a charismatic character could have been better celebrated and was saddened by the lack of optimism and expressions of hope for the future. After all, there is surely work still to be done to fulfil his dream and here could be the perfect place to inspire us all to follow in his footsteps.
Speaking of inspiring…
At the other end of the “Freedom Parkway” was another visitor centre; The Carter Center. Jimmy Carter’s Presidential Library is here together with an exhibition of his life and work, too.
The story really did start at the beginning.
His years in the US Navy were shown and then his short political career before becoming President.
The story was well told with interesting detail and just the right balance of details. As we learned more about the man and his family, we became more impressed by his approach to his work and to life generally.
I always find details like this interesting, enjoy seeing a person’s handwriting and love to see the scribbled notes alongside the formal typewritten address. And yes, of course I’m delighted that someone thought to keep that bit of paper (even though it was an historical document, probably from the moment it was written!)
His four years as President were outlined alongside the events of the time and my question was answered: How come he didn’t serve a second term? (Ronald Reagan and the Hostage situation in the US Embassy in Teheran)
Finally, there amongst the story of how he and Rosalynn have continued to work tirelessly for democracy around the world, to fight infectious diseases and encourage peaceful resolution of situations was the second Nobel medal of the day, less than a mile from the first one.
I liked a little pinboard by the exit door where an invitation to leave a message for the former President had resulted in a few heartfelt greetings.
Regardless of how we’d thought of him as President and just going by what we’d just learned about him as a man, the three of us all agreed with this simple sentence. Lovely, isn’t it?
Now, we’d all been hoping for Gerogia Peaches on this trip, but have we seen a single one? No! So our last stop was going to be the Ponce City Market. We’d not looked into details but there appeared to be a food market and gourmet stores there and it had come recommended by a couple of locals. Here’s hoping for peaches.
Not a chance! This wasn’t a food market at all but a newly renovated hipster shopping and lifestyle venue and though there’s a Farmers Market from time to time, today was not one of those times.
It didn’t matter really. We pottered around a little, in Anthropologie and West Elm, then mooched in a huge Williams Sonoma before being drawn to a curious drinks store.
At the tap store, your drink of choice is dispensed to a closed container (their licence is only for drinking off the premises) and having made our choices, we settled down at a nearby table and decided where to have dinner.
We settled on Indian Street Food, which was good but not quite as good as the gelato we found for dessert, just around the corner.
We had to behave ourselves though