Lincoln Memorial’s 100th anniversary: A bastion of hope in troubled times

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(CNN) – That sounds pretty eternal, doesn’t it?

Shining white marble. Large columns. A huge statue of a man sitting upright with purpose and glorious pride. The face is discreet and boring and looking forward firmly. Hand – one stuck and the other light. Inscribed speeches call us to find our best angels and move on.

Surely He is there forever, reminding us and making us humble and guiding us.

Yet the Lincoln Memorial is only 100 years old with us. The National Mall opened on May 30, 1922, on the Potomac River behind it. It was 57 years since President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated just days after the end of the Civil War.

Since then, millions of visitors – U.S. citizens and people from around the world – have come each year to enjoy the glory of the ancient Greek-inspired temple and to seek knowledge from the 16th President of the United States.

In November 1981, I was one of those people.

‘Remember this moment’

A visit to the Lincoln Memorial can inspire wonder and hope.

A visit to the Lincoln Memorial can inspire wonder and hope.

Diegostini / Getty Images

It was a surreal experience. I had only been out of the Deep South once before in my life when I found myself staring at a statue of Lincoln.

My university’s journalism board sponsored a DC trip during my second year. Much of that journey is now lost in the mist. I also had to seek the advice of a college friend for a specific time.

But the memory of my first visit to the Lincoln Memorial is as clear as a cold, moonlit night.

Our hotel was not far away, and I rushed out of the group to see it. There was hardly anyone else. Living in close seclusion without any interruptions makes it all the more.

I was not ready for what I saw. Or felt.

Flooded in the light of night, I was moved by the beauty. But it was the inscriptions that overwhelmed me emotionally – especially the final lines of the second opening address on the North Chamber wall.

With hatred for anyone, with charity for all, with determination in the way God gives us the right to see, let us try to take care of the wounds of the nation, to bind the wounds of the nation to complete the work we are in. For war and for his widow and her orphan શકે May he attain and attain just and lasting peace between us and all nations.

We were facing our own difficulties in the fall of 1981. The United States was in deep recession. The threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union was a constant underlying concern. And the assassination was in the air again – Egypt’s Anwar Sadat was assassinated just a few weeks ago, and President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II survived the spring in their quest for life.

It was easy to worry about the future – mine, the country and the world. But there sat President Lincoln, a few people carrying the burden during America’s greatest crisis would understand, show the way forward.

I stopped on the way out to sit on the steps of the monument, alone but feeling the arms of my country around me and almost confused with the hope inspired by the optimism of youth. In the background illuminates the Washington Monument and a bright moon mall with the US Capitol. And I said to myself, “Remember this moment. Remember this moment…”

Nation in 1922

Lincoln was a controversial figure, especially in the defeated South.

Just two years after his death, Congress passed the first of many monument-building bills. According to the National Park Service. But only in 1911, when Congress formed the new Lincoln Memorial Commission, did things really move forward.

In 1914 there was a groundbreaking on the land that some critics described as swamp.

Finally, the Memorial was opened on May 30, 1922. President of the Tuskegee Institute of Alabama, keynote speaker Dr. Robert Motton was present, addressing a largely different crowd; Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (and former President) William Howard Taft; President Warren G. Hardening; And Robert Todd Lincoln, Lincoln’s only surviving son, According to NPS.

I wonder what personal feelings and thoughts they must have had after seeing the brand new structure for so long.

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The monument is of neoclassical design and is based on the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. Maybe it gives him an air of stability.

According to the NPS, “it consists of the main floor in a high basement with an attic story above. The building stands in grand isolation in a landscape circle at the west end of the National Mall.

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“At the time of Lincoln’s death, a colony of 36 Doric columns, representing the number of states in the Union, was erected around the Memorial Chamber.”

Inside, a 19-foot-tall statue tower on the visitor, resembling their heritage towers across the country.

May 1922 was a period of American progress and pushback. The United States was victorious with its allies in World War I, but the Communists were officially on the verge of forming the USSR.

Women Gained the right to vote Less than two years ago. And when slavery was abolished, Jim Crow Segregation had deep roots in the country in its place.

America was a nation again, but much work remained to be done.

The next 100 years

Contralto made history when Marion Andersen sang at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday in 1939.

Contralto made history when Marion Andersen sang at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday in 1939.

Universal History Archive / UIG / Shutterstock

In the 100 years since its opening, the Lincoln Memorial has been the backdrop of national celebrations and witnesses important and emotional moments in US history. This is especially true in the area of ​​civil rights.

He was there Contralto Marion Anderson sang A crowd of about 75,000 people gathered in 1939 after the Daughters of America’s Revolution rejected his request to rent facilities at the Constitution Hall.

And as we approach the 30th of May, the day of the 100th anniversary, which falls right on Memorial Day, our troubles remain.

The climate crisis whose Lincoln could never have imagined spread to us. Moscow is the enemy once again. Inflation has returned. Violent crimes are on the rise. The epidemic has not yet happened to us. And from a church in Charleston, South Carolina to a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, the hateful and murderous legacy of slavery continues after 150 years with no end.

Fireworks explode at Lincoln Memorial on July 4, 2019.  It is the backdrop for many national celebrations.

Fireworks explode at Lincoln Memorial on July 4, 2019. It is the backdrop for many national celebrations.

Susan Walsh / AP

It certainly feels like a divided nation, and I’m more concerned about the future than ever before. Young optimism has been replaced by hard-earned frustration and apparently reasonable pessimism after almost 40 years.

Still, we will go to the monument. And hope. What else can we do? Leave it Lincoln did not. Millions will continue to climb those steps, and some will find wonder and understanding. The words from the Gettysburg address on the South Chamber wall are:

Instead of devoting ourselves to the great work that remains before us here, it is that we take more devotion from these honorable dead for the purpose for which they gave the last perfect measure of devotion ~ that we are very determined here that these dead never To come. Have died in vain ~ that this nation under God will have a new birth of freedom ~ and that government will not be destroyed from the earth by the people for the people.

It is a lasting monument, the birthplace of crisis and war, a bastion of hope. Maybe our solutions rest there. If there are no solutions, at least encourage to endure flammable tests.

As President Harding said In his 1922 speech: “This monument is less for Abraham Lincoln than it is for us today, and for those who follow him.”

How to Visit Lincoln Memorial

It is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. The NPS says “early evening and morning hours are beautiful and quiet time to visit.”

The monument is on the west end of the National Mall, a two-mile (3.2-kilometer) walk from the US Capitol with the Washington Monument between the two.

The nearest metro stations are Foggy Bottom (23rd Street and I Street NW) and Smithsonian (12th Street and Independence Avenue SW). Click here For more details.

Forrest Brown attended the University of South Carolina from 1980 to 1983 and began working with CNN Digital in 2008.

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