By Norman Knight

It is hot here in Washington. It would be easy to make jokes about politicians and hot air, but I don’t have the energy; I am too busy looking for some shade and a $5 bottle of water. I am starting to wonder if maybe the first part of July was not the wisest time to build young American citizens.

Becky and I are here in D.C. with our four grandkids and their support troops, aka dad, mom and aunt. The plan — a year in the making — was to introduce the four young ones to our nation’s capital, to expose them in one week to as much of our national history, cultural premises and democratic assumptions as we can wring out of this amazing city.

We are trying to look at this string of mid-90 degree days as a challenge. I personally am trying not to blame their school’s balanced calendar for restricting us to the two hottest months of the year.

Even though we five adults chart various points on the political spectrum, we understand and agree that inculcating an understanding of patriotic purpose, a comprehension of the necessary virtues of citizenship and a sense of being a part of something greater than oneself should begin in childhood. We hoped on this trip to imprint to some degree those ideas.

Understanding what it means to be an American, perhaps especially in these times, is crucial to our survival.

We knew that even in the best of weather it wouldn’t be easy to mount such a ground assault on Washington with our contingent of kids. Like any military operation, planning is key. Part of the consideration from the beginning was to anticipate what museums, exhibits, displays and activities might interest four children ages 5, 7, 9 and 11. What might interest the 5-year-old girl would not necessarily hold the attention of the 11-year-old boy, and vice versa. We also agreed that certain attractions in the city would be required no matter the interest levels.

We figured the Air and Space Museum would be of interest, and it was. We were pleasantly surprised that most of the required visits: viewing the Declaration of Independence and Constitution; walking through the Capitol, Supreme Court and White House were not only tolerated but maybe even a tiny bit interesting.

As art lovers ourselves, Becky and I were very happy that 7-year-old g-kid in particular was fascinated with the works in The National Gallery of Art. He’s the one who wants to be an artist and a baseball player when he grows up.

The monuments along the Mall were a big hit. Is that because they see the Lincoln Memorial on money and the other monuments in just about every photograph of Washington? Not sure, but they had a good time doing cartwheels for the camera with the Washington Monument as a background in one shot and the Capitol in another shot.

Although heat as well as fatigue were issues as we traipsed around the Mall, we learned that popsicles have an amazingly curative effect on whining — with adults as well as g-kids.

As in any campaign of this magnitude, it is the unexpected that sometimes becomes most notable. We planners were not prepared for the high level of interest in the Bureau of Printing and Engraving. Of course, seeing pallets stacked with $20 bills has a way of drawing one’s attention. Five-year-old g-kid asked, “Mommy, was the money in your purse made here?” When I think about it, I suppose one could argue that the fascination with money also is an American characteristic.

Nine-year-old g-kid had said to a sibling early on that this was a learning vacation, not a fun beach vacation. By the end of the week, she told Grandma Becky that she wanted to come back again next year. I think the others might want to, as well. Even with such heat.

Norman Knight, a retired Clark-Pleasant Middle School teacher, writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to