Standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial offers opportunity to reflect, now ten years after September 11th and 150 years after the start of the American Civil War.
Having come to Washington D.C. on the ten year anniversary weekend of the attacks of September 11th to mourn that which was lost but also to remember our nation’s treasures, my wife and I made the pilgrimage up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Walking westward to the monument along the National Mall is usually an opportunity to figuratively reflect on the nation’s history while marveling at the beauty of the reflecting pool, an aw-inspiring mirror that normally displays both the Lincoln Memorial edifice and the Washington Monument obelisk. Bot not this day; the pool has been recently drained for renovation and we see turned-up earth and broken concrete where the pool’s floor once was.
As we approached, President Lincoln’s story is being shared by a park ranger to families sitting on the monument’s steps–an account of Lincoln’s life told with great passion though I imagine this individual has shared it many times before. It is a story of our sixteenth president’s well-known struggle to keep a nation united under the scourge of the American Civil War, which started 15o years ago when on April 12, 1861, the Confederacy attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina.
Contemplating the challenges faced by President Lincoln during the unprecedented time of the Civil War, I use Dr. Peter Smith’s metaphor of “building a bicycle while riding it” (see ‘This is a Pioneering Task’) to try and conceptualize what is required to act in challenging situations without a scripted plan. Knowing the hardships the United States faces after the 9/11 attacks I also reflect on the understanding that there is not an obvious plan mapped out for this country–much like a missing reflecting pool, the vision of the future is obscured by past destruction. In this time of uncertainty we now have to rely on a shared principle to, even at great cost, honor and guard what is right in order to persevere as the nation has done through other monumental struggles.
Jason Freeman is the founder of Work of Start.