Lincoln Memorial Statue at Night, Washington, DC, USA
Eric Schwortz / age fotostock
The Lincoln Memorial has the hushed and solemn air of a sacred place, and indeed, many of its six million annual visitors behave like pilgrims arriving at a shrine. They linger in the soaring marble space, contemplating the 19-foot tall statue of the seated Lincoln, or silently reading the inscribed words of the Gettysburg Address or his second inaugural address, which famously ends: 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, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. The legacy of the 16th president and his measured words in times of strife—as well as the monument’s dramatic setting at the end of the National Mall—have made the site the natural gathering place for vigils, protests, and marches through the years since its 1922 dedication, including African-American singer Marian Anderson’s 1939 Easter radio broadcast, and most notably, the 1963 march that culminated in Martin Luther King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech.
speechwriting at its finest
A history lesson in action! The Lincoln Memorial is best known for the lifelike giant with iconic eyes that seem to see through time. Side walls are inscribed with the text of the 2nd Inaugural Address and the Gettysburg Address. Sunlight dances across the words all day long, and the low rumble of tourists taking photos offers a slightly chaotic backdrop that is easily soothed by the powerful words of these speeches.