Way back in the antedeluvian days of the last century, I spent quite a bit of time in Washington D.C.. So much so that I eventually wrote a travel guidebook for budget travelers to the U.S. capital. During my book research I survey DC visitors and discovered that a clear majority of them named the Lincoln Memorial as their favorite historical site. Personally, I have always felt that the memorial to America’s greatest President is extraordinarily moving. This month the United States marks the centennial of the Lincoln Memorial. This monument to our 16th President was dedicated on Memorial Day (then Decoration Day) in 1922 and its one hundred year birthday falls on Memorial Day this year. The Lincoln Memorial is visited by millions every year in Washington, D.C., and has been the site for many memorable speeches and events over time.
On May 30, 1922, approximately 50,000 people gathered around the base of the memorial and some along the Reflecting Pool. Three main speakers addressed the crowd, and were broadcast to as many as 2 million over the radio: Chief Justice William Howard Taft, President Warren G. Harding and Dr. Robert Russa Moton, principal of the Tuskegee Institute. Dr. Moton delivered the keynote address for the dedication. Ironically they spoke to a segregated crowd about the discrimination African Americans continued to face.
In attendance that day amongst the crowds were veterans of the U. S. Civil War from the North and the South, as well as Lincoln’s eldest son, Robert Todd Lincoln. For this month’s celebration the National Park Service, will hold a ceremony “Building on Lincoln’s Vision of Unity and Equality” at the Lincoln Memorial to highlight the full range of meaning behind the Lincoln Memorial, from its original meaning as a memorial to Lincoln’s life and contribution as savior of the Union to becoming a symbol of civil rights. Participants will include Lincoln historian Harold Holzer; Dr. Edna Greene Medford, noted Lincoln scholar from Howard University; Dr. Charlotte Morris, president of Tuskegee University; and actor Steven Lang of Avatar, Gettysburg and Gods and Generals fame. The ceremony will also include musical accompaniment from the United States Marine Quintet and singer/actress Felicia Curry, who recently played Marian Anderson at the Ford’s Theatre production of My Lord, What a Night.