Monday, August 12, 2013

Dead Guys and Words on Walls

This week, dear friends from Boston came to visit and they wanted their son, Gabe, age ten, to see the sights. Since this is Washington D.C., "the sights" means lots of memorials. And that means, in the words of a 10-year-old, lots of dead people. After we did a loop consisting of the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, the WWII Memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial, I had to agree with him.
Thank goodness the memorials give us more for reflection than just, well, dead people. 
The Lincoln Memorial is essentially a big statue flanked by two speeches (“words on the walls” in Gabe-speak). But what speeches. We are blessed as a nation to have had a few exceptional leaders who were also exceptional writers.
Lincoln had more faith in us than we may deserve when he wrote in his Gettysburg Address: "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here." He gave us words with the power to touch our hearts and spirits, so much so that millions of people from around the world - including a 10-year-old boy from Boston – pause in the colorful crowd at the foot of that statue to read the 273 words of the Gettysburg Address.

Do you have a favorite speech?
What famous quotes do you wish you had written?


  1. Shari - Even for a history geek like me, when you're 10, dead guys aren't very interesting unless you can do as Gloria did in her classes and bring the history to life.

    I remember with great fondness the thrill I had when my parents allowed me to make my own Pickett's charge at Gettysburg--dropping me off at Seminary Ridge, running through the wheat field and up Cemetery Ridge where they awaited me.

    As for speeches, I recall listening to Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner" and immediately understanding its import.

    ~ Jim

  2. You are so right, Jim, teachers like Gloria can make such a difference! Museums and historical sites have gotten better about getting children involved with more kid-friendly, interactive exhibits. Getting to be part of their own Pickett's charge at Gettysburg would probably be the best memory for some kids!
    Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is just so perfect - he captures so much in so few words. Good writing.

  3. I'm a total sucker for the "I Have a Dream" speech by Martin Luther King. It just gives me chills -- reading it, reciting it or listening to it. Maybe it's because I know what happened afterward, but it always seems to give me goosebumps.

  4. I find it amazing that the Gettysburg Address was only 273 words!

    One of my favorite quotes is from Nelson Mandela: "If 27 years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are."

  5. Hi Sarah, Dr. King is definitely someone I had in mind when I said we've been lucky to have some leaders who are great writers. At his new memorial in DC, quote after quote is carved into one long wall - people walk along and take pictures with their favorites. Pretty amazing to see people spending so much time reading and thinking.

  6. Hi Kara - That Mandela quote - just wonderful. Thank you for stopping by.

  7. The Declaration of Independence is a wonderful document to read aloud. Thomas Jefferson is a primary author.

  8. Shari, I'm sure you gave Gabe some lasting memories.
    I like a quote attributed to Ben Franklin: "If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worthy reading, or do things worth the writing."

  9. Hi Warren, thanks for stopping by!
    Paula - Ben sure was quotable, wasn't he?

  10. I've been thinking all day about speeches, but when it comes down to it, I'm a Ben Franklin fan (a PA gal). Doesn't matter the quote, Ben knew what he was talking about. I also like that he was enthralled with Blackbeard and even wrote stories about him.
    I've done the whole monument tourist thing too, Shari. Hope you enjoyed it because we, who live in the DC area, do take it for granted. Nothing beats the Kennedy Center at night, having a glass of wine on the deck overlooking the Potomac and seeing Georgetown lit up. Now that's impressive!