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)