As the afternoon reached a sweltering 95 deg F, the mile along the National Mall seemed eternal. After passing by the White House and the Washington Memorial, it'd crossed my mind that perhaps I should leave the Mall and retreat to the much more comfortable interior of the Smithsonians. But I remembered the massive statue of Abraham Lincoln seated inside the Lincoln Memorial (thanks to the Night At The Museum) located at the other end of the Mall. To give up on this for some shade would be absolutely ridiculous.
As we descended the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, I told a fellow colleague that I was impressed and inspired by Lincoln's Gettysburg and Second Inaugural Addresses, which were both inscribed on the north and south walls respectively. It means a lot for a person like me (who knows nothing about the history of America other than 4th of July being the Independence Day) to be able to appreciate the wise words of the 16th President of United States.
I wish a few quotes are sufficient to exemplify the righteousness and intelligence of the 16th President of the United States of America but seriously, it's best to read the Addresses in whole.
In my few weeks here, I've been asked this question a few times..."What do you like about America?". Freedom, I said. Perhaps the expectation was for a more obvious and fun answer like convenience or superior technology, I believe the fundamental key to success is having the freedom to be creative. Freedom stems from equality, and that had been fought for in the USA, time and again in the past.
In 1963, more than a century after President Lincoln delivered his Second Inaugural Address, a man by the name of Martin Luther King delivered his infamous "I Have A Dream" speech to hundreds of thousands of Americans, right here on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that we'd just descended. His intention was to break the racial barrier that plagued the country and to restore freedom and equality promised by their forefathers.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
In the past month, workload and the excitement of adapting to a new territory had me drifting away from news back home. But of course, one can never be completely disconnected, thanks to the advancement in information technology and concerned friends. I've read of distasteful, radical comments and speeches, mostly in relation to irrelevant racial bias that made me wonder if this is what the world perceived of us - racists.
The National Mall was more than just blocks of famous landmarks to me. It had inspired and reignited that spark of hope that freedom and equality are possible, with the power of the people. It must be.