Ranger Reflections: The Lincoln Memorial Murals

Lincoln Memorial


The Lincoln Memorial's form, like the Parthenon of ancient Athens, a neoclassical temple, often suggests to some that Lincoln is deified here but Henry Bacon, Daniel Chester French the sculptor, Jules Guerin the artist, all tried to show us something different.

It is true that Lincoln's  words are lasting in terms of their power, their significance, their eloquence. But Lincoln was quite human and he's portrayed as such in this memorial. I think the opposite might be true. It is a temple but its purpose is to remind us that if Lincoln, a man with little formal education, could achieve the presidency, could lead us through a great civil war, and aspire to remind us of what this nation had become and should achieve, then any citizen at any level in our society could do the same.

In a nation where the Capitol of the United States is crowned with a statue that reminds us of liberty and freedom in the distance, where the Washington Monument in the foreground reminds us of the father of our country's efforts to create the constitution. Lincoln at the far end of the pool reminds us of what it took to preserve  all that others had sought in the beginning, what our nation may face again in the future, and what any citizen coming here should always be reminded of. Not that Lincoln had all the answers. None of our presidents ever will. But that he participated, he led, he forced us to imagine what our nation should do and should achieve, should preserve, and should extend the very liberty that those other symbols remind us of.


The Lincoln Memorial is built in the form of the Parthenon of ancient Athens. Discover the ways the artist and sculptor intended to portray Lincoln the man and inspire the nation. Explore the symbolism of the Lincoln Memorial's design and placement.


2 minutes, 10 seconds


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