The dream still lives on…

On the weekend of President’s Day last year, a cold, blustery Feburary–Brian and I made a trip to Washington D.C. Of all the buildings and monuments and museums we saw in those two days, the one that will always stand out in my mind is the Lincoln Memorial.

As I stood on the ice-covered stone steps gazing up into gentle face of the man who freed the slaves, a voice began to speak in my mind. A smooth masculine voice, deep and resonant said “…in whose symbolic shadow we stand today.” It was not Lincoln’s voice and words I was hearing, but the voice of one speaking 100 years later: the voice of the Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I realized that I was standing in the very same place where stood Dr. King in 1963. The ghostly echoes of his “Dream” still hung in the air. In my mind, as I gazed first upon the face of Mr. Lincoln, and then upon the frozen ice-covered Mall, those parts of the speech that I could
remember resounded in my head.

“I have a dream today!”

In my mind, the two men became as one, and Lincoln’s voice merged with Dr. King’s in calling for equality for all Americans: “…a new nation“–“shall rise up and live out“–“dedicated to the proposition“–“the true meaning of its creed“…and together…”that all men are created equal.”

I was struck by the realization that here, in this one spot on the stairs of the Lincoln memorial, is the collective soul of our nation. That here our national identity as brothers and sisters, as Americans regardless of race or class, was solidified. And that the dreams of those two men could not exist without each other.

Before I walked away from Lincoln’s kindly face and solid form, I knew I had to say to myself Dr. King’s final words. Under my breath, to myself more than to anyone else who might overhear, I said “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

(For the full text and audio/visual of Dr. King’s rousing speech, go here)

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11 thoughts on “The dream still lives on…

  1. I went to Washington last spring for the first time. The Lincoln memorial and the Vietnam memorial (mostly the latter) just floored me.

  2. I like going to memorials, they evoke the spirit of the people and times they commemorate so much more that a book can.

    Did Lincoln’s eyes follow you as you moved around?

  3. I’ve been living in and around Washington for 17 years, and the only monument I’ve ever seen was the Washington in 3rd grade.

    I suck.

  4. the Lincoln Memorial is something i’ve always wanted to see. beautiful post and wonderful reminder today.

    thanks, rachel 🙂

  5. Oh you are a brave one to visit the memorials in January. I remember once skipping a coin across the frozen surface of the Tidal Basin. The eerie *twing*twing*twing* echoing off the Jefferson memorial was worth the cold.

    Thank you for reminding me!

  6. jen: thanks.

    Jazz; I like how architecture can evoke emotion just by use of form and line and symbols. All the memorials of D.C. are exemplary examples of emotional design. Its pretty cool.

    bob: I never got the sense that Lincoln’s eyes were following me around. The statue was so big, it was more like he could see all without having to “follow”–to see was effortless for that giant.

    woozie: shame! well, you’re young enough to rectify that shamefulness. 😉 I’m not surprised, though…the same is true of New Yorkers: many who grow up there never visit the Statue of Liberty. That’s because proximity breeds familiarity breeds apathy.

    martha; I hope you get a chance to see it too, someday!

    puss; yes. I cherish every single moment clarity I blessed with. That’s why I have so many posts on this blog decribing those moments of clarity.

    franki; yeah, no kidding! its FRIGID in D.C. this time of year.

  7. you did him much more justice than i. whenever i’m having trouble finding words, i realize that someone else has already said it better than i could anyway.

  8. The Lincoln memorial is a powerful one and how appropriate that it was King’s words which came to you s you stood there. That speech always chokes me up.

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