They went neoclassical down on Broad Street just over a century ago, building this version of the NYSE to house future growth and represent America's financial preeminence.
The façade describes that America's wealth is derived of the common citizen's hard work. The Corinthian capitals peaking out over a massive American flag top off columns, of course. All of this architecturally suggests that the building is open to the public, and though not governmental that it is a public institution.
This massive flag hides the columns and what they stand for, it represents that fear, suspicion, and private governance have become more powerful than public access in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Down on The Street, oversized men holding oversized guns glare if you stand to snap a photo. The public is no longer welcome.
MSNBC published a nonpartisan analysis of U.S. President George W. Bush's 70 appearances on the campaign trail during the Fall of 2003. All 70 times Bush traveled were to support Republican candidates. All the President's travel is paid for by U.S. taxpayers and is, of course, expensive.
It's one thing that a majority of Americans feel Bush is out of touch, but I was surprised to learn that not a single event with President Bush has been open to the public. The President and his party enjoyed his 70-event campaign tour, funded by taxpayer money, while the public was not even once welcome to attend. Bush lacked the courage to meet any American who had not made a large donation to a Republican campaign.
What could the President do differently, even more than opening some events to the public when he is traveling with public money? As President of the United States, Bush could take the opportunity of a campaign season to hold an event at a high school with students of near-voting age, or at a college campus to encourage young voter turn-out. Bush could register a few people to vote, demonstrating the President's service to the American people as steward of our democracy.
We need a President and a government able to serve the people above politics. We do need politics, and we do need debates, but we need for all our politics and all our debates and all our great institutions to be open, not only to the rich but to all of us. We need to not allow our government or the wealthy in our society to hide behind our flag; we need to proudly be the free and equal people that flag stands for.