Ranger Reflections: The Lincoln Statue

Lincoln Memorial


The first time I visited the Lincoln Memorial I was with my grandparents and I was 13 years old, and we had already seen a lot of Washington DC. By the time we got to Lincoln Memorial it was just another one of the sites for me and as I walked around the outside of the memorial, I looked up to the top and noticed all the states. I noticed Texas. Well that's my home state. And I felt an instant connection to the Lincoln Memorial. I didn't know exactly why the state of Texas was there, but I knew there had to be a good reason for it. And as we walked up into the memorial and I saw the statue of Lincoln, it all kind of hit home a little bit. I was 13. I didn't know a whole lot about Abraham Lincoln. What I had learned about him was that he was a self-taught man, grew up in a log cabin, you know the same thing that you learn in any school in America. The thing about Lincoln though was I realized with him anyone can become president of the United States, and I remember that as a kid and growing up thinking I've got the same opportunity that  everybody else does. Anybody else that's been president, that can be me one day, so I made my connections to the Lincoln Memorial and I really enjoy helping visitors make a connection as well. Because everything's not right there in front of you. You have to search for a few things. 

As a visitor standing at the Lincoln Memorial looking to the east, they'll notice the Washington Monument, they'll notice the Capitol building. What they can't see at the other end of the National Mall is the Ulysses S Grant Memorial. He's up on his horse Cincinnati, very high in the air and his eyes and Lincoln's eyes meet through the Washington Monument. It's a powerful  image when you think about it- the the two men that  helped to end the civil war are staring through the father of our country's memorial. Kind of a neat thing and they see a president who has spent the last four years of his life trying  to end the civil war also trying to end slavery.

And so when you're looking at the statue of  Abraham Lincoln, his hands are very symbolic. You have to look closely. You'll see a fist in one hand. That's his left and then in his right hand, he has an open hand and the fist shows Lincoln in  action. That is Lincoln during the civil war. He has kept his promise to defend the union and defend the flag of the United States. The other hand is open to show that he is also a man who can forgive.  And he does forgive the south, ask them to come back into the union at the end of the civil war. It's almost as if that open hand is there to shake the hand of the south and as visitors stand inside the chamber of Lincoln memorial and they they gaze up at the statue of Lincoln and they notice something is flowing over his chair.

It's not his overcoat, it's not a blanket. It is our American flag. The only way to notice that it is the American flag is to study  that statue very closely, and if you look just to the left of his right knee, you're going to notice a few stars in the marble that's indicative of the flag. That's the only way you can tell you're looking at the American flag. That could be seen as a disrespectful thing by  some, but when you think about what he did to save the flag, to wage war upon his own country, to uphold the union he promised to protect, it makes perfect sense. And it's such a great symbol to see him seated on that flag because he himself became a victim of the American civil war. Lincoln fought for the flag, he died for the flag, and it makes perfect sense for him to be seated upon our American flag.


Subtle features of the Lincoln Memorial hold meaning and symbolism. There are connections to other memorials in Washington D.C., moments in history, and parts of Lincoln’s story waiting to be found in the memorial’s stone.


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