My wife and I spent an anniversary in Washington, D.C., visiting many famous memorials and monuments. For me, none stood out as much as the Lincoln Memorial. At other memorials, visitors walked through the exhibits, pausing to gaze, read inscriptions and reflect–but then hurrying to the next place. But at the Lincoln Memorial, people lingered, often sitting and conversing on the steps. Many seemed reluctant to leave.
Have you visited the Lincoln Memorial? What does it mean to you?
This week, I’ve perused our gallery of 100+ American Images, selecting five of my favorites and describing what each means to me. We began with the image of Buzz Aldrin and the American flag on the moon, and then considered the image of immigrants at Ellis Island “climbing into the Promised Land,” a Stand Down for homeless veterans, and Mark Twain as a critical patriot.
We conclude today with the Great Emancipator.
The Lincoln Memorial is filled with symbolism. It includes the text of the Gettysburg Address and the 16th president’s Second Inaugural Address. Legend has it that Lincoln’s fingers make the letters A and L in American Sign Language, a legend that could be true because the sculptor, Daniel Chester French, had a son who was deaf.
There are many reasons why people might linger at this memorial. It could be its location, the magnificent view from its steps, or its association with other historic events. For example, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech from these steps in1963.
His preservation of the union is the most important reason, in my opinion. Lincoln faced the greatest threat the nation has ever seen and, as it says in the epitaph, he “saved the union.”
Our so-called culture war today pales in comparison. It’s not a hot war. It’s not a shooting war. If we could preserve the union when faced with a bloody civil war, how could we not find a way to rise above our polarized politics today?
What does Lincoln mean to you?
If you’ve visited the Lincoln Memorial, what did it stir in you?
Which of the five images we’ve viewed this week your favorite?
NOTE: Be sure to read Duncan Newcomer’s essay on Lincoln and the 10 Core Values, as well as other Lincoln resources we offer. And, visit our inspiring gallery of American Images, along with instructions on how to use these images to have a civil dialogue about American values.