Recently I had an opportunity to visit the Lincoln Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.  I had visited DC many times and had seen the Lincoln Monument but this was my first time visiting the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.   My first stop was the Lincoln Monument and, as I stood there taking pictures, I found myself in amazed by all of the people of various cultures surrounding me.  All of these people were here to see how United States had gained freedom. Clearly our journey has not been perfect but none the less, these people were here to see how the United States had gotten to where we are.  

As I moved from the foot of the Lincoln statue to the plaque that featured the Gettysburg  address,  I was struck by these words: 

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

 

I’ve stood in this spot before and read these words.  I’ve heard the address given in history classes and on stage but there was something about this day and this moment in time. I couldn’t put my finger on what I was feeling it at the time.  But the words :

 

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work and it is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us“       …just kept echoing in my head. I left there feeling like I was supposed to take something from this experience but I couldn’t grasp the lesson.

 MLK, Jr. Memorial

When we arrived at the Martin Luther King Jr Monument, I was initially disappointed  (I thought the statue would be bigger).   You approach the statue  be walking through two large 28 foot stones  and you come in from the back  of the memorial.  Before you get to the actual memorial,  you begin to see this clearing that overlooks the Tidal Basin and the view is flanked by a stunning display of Cherry trees.  As you come around the side of the memorial, the image of Martin Luther King, Jr. begins to materialize from the stone.  As I stood at the foot of this memorial , my initial disappointed had given way to awe and a sense of peace.  And there it was again, this nagging presence that there is something else. But what?


Was it  something about these two places and these two men.  Clearly they are linked by history.  I began thinking about what they had in common.
 
  • King’s most famous ‘dream’ speech was given in the centennial year of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. And King saw Lincoln, for all of his possible flaws and conflicted racial views, as someone as devoted to equality as any great American of the 19th century, and one who had done more within the constraints of his constitutional power to end slavery than any of his predecessors. 
  • Both were assassinated while addressing the endemic racism of the United States of America.
  • Both are known for their great oratory skills and their speeches rank among the greatest given.

I was still coming up with nothing.  I hate to end this post here but I haven’t quite figured out the feelings that I have.  I thought by writing out my feeling i would be able to capture this feeling that just won’t let me go.  This is not the last you will hear on these thoughts,  I have a feeling that this is only the beginning.

One Response to “Lincoln and King…Are they speaking to me?”
  1. Jon-Mark says:

    Interesting! I don’t remember seeing this post before…but another similarity strikes me, as well. You know that I don’t agree with a lot of Lincoln’s constitutional politics, but, regardless, he was a great man and a great leader. Though I wish it had unfolded another way, he was instrumental in ridding the country of the blight of slavery which had cursed our nation since its inception.

    However, Lincoln’s phrase from his second inaugural address, ‘With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in’, links that great man to Martin Luther King, Jr., as well. Had Lincoln lived, we might never have had the bitter divide between North and South that still greatly exists today; he never acted out of vengeance and animosity. Likewise, in a time of great racial tension and violence, Dr. King advocated peaceable demonstration and a movement of cooperation and reconciliation rather than one of anger and revenge, and that is one of the things that set him apart as a great Civil Rights leader. Thus, both men shared an unusual measure of wisdom and maturity in leadership.

    Sorry to go on and on here–your thoughts struck me, too, and I thought I’d share my own musings!

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