Ben Reeves: Lincoln ties little Burg to capital, nation

From the Register-Mail:

 A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to Washington, D.C., for the first time. I had always wanted to visit our nation’s capital, to see the seat of government and America’s monuments arranged along the National Mall….

Walking down the Mall, seeing the towering Washington Monument and the marble edifice of the capital, it is hard to conceive of this being in the same country as Galesburg. Galesburg does not have skyscrapers, and our largest monuments are the courthouse and Old Main, tiny in comparison to the monuments in our nation’s capital. But it’s there that the connective tissue of our nation resides.

At the end of the day, my last stop was the Lincoln Memorial. To reach it I walked the length of the reflecting pool. It is stagnant in the summer, green and surrounded on all sides by roosting ducks and their droppings. It’s not a pleasant place to be on a hot summer evening, but it is an aromatic reminder of the fact that Washington, D.C., was built on top of a swamp. It makes you wonder why anyone thought it would be a good place for a city.

Despite this the memorial rises above everything, its powerful facade dominating all. It is a long walk down the length of the pool and up the stairs to the massive entrance of the memorial. As I walk up the steps I pass tourists and visitors from all over the country, and the world. They are there for the same reason I am — to see the great man, Abraham Lincoln.

I had seen pictures of the statue many times, but I had never really comprehended it. Lincoln is seated on a throne, with a cape thrown over his shoulder, in a regal mode, and the architecture of the building, from the columns to the fasces at the doors, are reminiscent of Imperial Rome. Lincoln is both inspiring and intimidating.

He appears powerful but also thoughtful. The Gettysburg Address is painted on the inside walls of the memorial.

It is Lincoln, and this address, that tie Galesburg to the capital. As I read the Gettysburg Address in the Lincoln Memorial and looked at his statue, the connectedness of it all becomes apparent. Not a day goes by that I, a student at Knox College, do not see a statue of Lincoln; he’s everywhere. And he is in Washington, D.C., constantly watching over the nation.

It was in Galesburg that Lincoln first denounced slavery on a moral basis, and the words that he spoke as he sought to fulfill his ideals and maintain the union are permanently inscribed on the walls of his monument in Washington. It is because of Lincoln that Barack Obama is now able to be the president of the United States and it does not seem like a mistake that Obama also comes from Illinois and spoke, just like Lincoln, in Galesburg at Knox College.