Closing Pennsylvania Ave.:
A Sad Surrender to Fear

Newsweek - Tuesday, May 23, 1995

It is shocking, It is sad, But, unfortunately, it is necessary.

The closing of Pennsylvania Avenue for two blocks in front of the White house has long been debated and now it is a fact. Through Civil War, through assassinations and assassination attempts, through two world wars and through the public unrest ofthe '60's and 70's, the thoroughfare dubbed "America's Main Street" was open. That very act was an enduring symbol of American values.

Now the concrete barricades provide another symbol. Life in the late 2th Century is a struggle between belief in the everyday acts of heroism and the kindness that seldom make the evening news and fear of the cruel, incomprehensible forces in our midst. We live in a time when the burglar alarm and the storefront grate are commonplace, when small freedoms routinely are surrendered in hopes of preserving the larger ones.

In this time and in this place, did anyone really believe the president's house could go on in its innocent vulnerability?

The closure of the street because of security concerns is a deep loss. But that loss can be transformed into something of value. The Clinton administration has asked that the National Capital Planning Commission turn the two-block stretch of this once-majestic boulevard into a pedestrian mall. The commission has 90 days to come up with a plan.

That mall will always be a reminder of our surrender to fear. But it should also make viewing the gleaming presidential residence more pleasant than it has been. No longer will tourists have to fight six lanes of city traffic, smog and honking horns to view the spendor of the White House and its magnificent lawn.

Developing this mall as an oasis, and keeping it fully accessible to the walking public, are fitting alternatives to unfettered access and the unfortunate insecurity it breeds.

Pennsylvania Ave. Closure || Peace Park