It feels like I have stared into the cold eyes of Abraham Lincoln my whole life, whether in catching a glance each time I pull a five dollar bill from my wallet or wrangled up enough spare change from the seat cushions of my couch or car dash to round to the nearest dollar. Maybe it was the ease of familiarity and frequency in seeing The Lincoln Memorial minted on one side of a penny for so long that made it a D.C. “must see” the first time I made it there. Subsequently, each trip that I’ve made to D.C., I’ve insisted on carving out some time for a visit to this area to find restful solace.
Lincoln was known a The Great Emancipator, delivering The Emancipation Proclamation effective in 1863 and subsequently moving forward the passage of the 13th Amendment to The United States Constitution in 1865, which outlawed slavery and involuntary servitude except as punishment for whereof the party was duly convicted in The United States.
Lincoln is regarded by many scholars as among the greatest U.S. Presidents, chiefly in part to his steadfast action and resilience through The Civil War, as well as a commitment to Equal Rights. Inscribed behind the large statue of Lincoln sitting at the memorial are the words:
“IN THIS TEMPLE
AS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE
FOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNION
THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
IS ENSHRINED FOREVER.”
As history unfolded, The Nation mourned the loss of Lincoln after his Assassination on April 14, 1865 by John Wilkes Booth in D.C.’s Ford Theatre as Lincoln was attending a performance.
Washington, D.C. is a fascinating place to me in that most of the area is densely populated by tourists from around the world, all engaged in seeing the same memorials which shed light on the nation’s history; both in our most trying and most triumphant hours. In a way, that’s the reason I enjoy The Lincoln Memorial so much. The site itself is a bit offset from the rest of “The National Mall”, though easily accessible by tour bus, ride share service, public transit, or walk. The space is sprawling, usually with groups clamoring on the steps of the memorial to see the white Marble depiction of our 16th President alongside inscribed walls featuring his Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural Speech. It’s a study on the human condition to see all the prep for the perfect selfie (of which I am not immune).
But as one is able to take a step back, that is where I at least see more of the forest from the trees. Abraham Lincoln, was a catalyst in progressing the ideals of equality in our nation; that the tenants of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness applied to all citizens of the land.
Which is partly why I chose the song “In the End” this week by Linkin Park, a band named to pay homage to a Santa Monica Park in their California roots. I am just ironic enough to make the connection in the Lincoln and Linkin, but I selected “In the End” specifically with just as much thought. The nu metal song starts with the lyric “It starts with one…” being crooned by now departed Chester Bennington. Lincoln, a mostly self educated man, was able to help spark ideas that shaped the makeup of our nation.
But in just as many ways, the ingenuity of the idea is that even in light of Lincoln’s passing, the enactment of those ideals grew bigger than just one person.
I work in an industry where talk is cheap. Talk is one of those things that without works, remains as flat as the way the statements arrive from our lips. To take shape, thoughts and ideas must flesh themselves out by commitment and follow through. Action and Accountability.
I believe that Lincoln started with an idea, formed with wisdom of thought leaders who have gone before him and passed on a torch to leaders long after him. And while presently we can discuss how that may apply to our current personal or national debate, I am more in awe of, inspired by and drawn to be a part of sharing in something that looks like the action of sharing space with people who may not have the same background, gender, race or point of view as I do, but finding those areas of common ground.
Not to persuade or to be persuaded, but to relish in the knowledge of what can be built together by listening, being present and knowing the balance of engaging and taking a step back.