At the top of the original Cape Henry Lighthouse in Virginia Beach, after climbing 90 feet of winding metal staircase, I looked out at the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay. The sky appeared milky in the hazy sunshine, and a few pleasure boats bobbed on the waves. Commissioned by George Washington, this lighthouse has stood here since 1792, overlooking the spot where storm-tossed settlers from England landed in 1607 and claimed this land for King James I.
Those settlers seeking freedom and fortune didn’t know it, but they started a process that led to the creation of the United States of America and the republic that exists today. To get an idea of how it all happened, I drove along 171 miles of Virginia highway and back roads through 400 years of history, starting in Virginia Beach and ending just north of Richmond. It was a journey of discovery that told me much about our nation’s evolution over the four centuries.
The legacies of the people who inhabited these sites live on today, not just in the United States but around the world.