A Reflection on Monuments and Memorials in D.C.

Independence Hall, Antietam National Battlefield and Gettysburg, and the Lincoln Memorial and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
“Exploits of heroes . . . are lodged in our psyches. We call on their examples in times of uncertainty” (Bolman and Deal, 2013, 253). When one visits these statues and places that stand as memorials and monuments in our nation, the splendor of the physical location or object are eclipsed by the pride, inspiration, and marvel that one feels when you consider the accomplishments of the individuals to which these places pay homage. Such monuments and memorials operate in the Symbolic Frame for our nation.

Independence Hall stands as a symbol of freedom to this nation. Its preservation is important because two of our nation’s most important documents, The Declaration of Independence and The U.S. Constitution, were both signed here. There is no functional use of this building aside from the quick 15-minute view inside where visitors can see where the signers met and debated one another, yet it is important in helping our nation recall the profound change that can come about from a room full of individuals committed to independence and strongly opposed to tyranny. As one departs the grounds of this monument that are dedicated to freedom, he will leave inspired with a sense of pride for his nation’s heritage and a sense of hope in what may continue to be for the United States.

In contrast to paying respects to the life and dedication of the men at Independence Hall, visitors of Antietam National Battlefield and Gettysburg will be heartened to reflect more on the death and sacrifice of the men who fought on these hallowed grounds. The memorial to America’s bloodiest and deadliest battle at Antietam brings to guests a feeling of remorse and disturbance as they consider not only the extent to which individuals will go to abolish slavery but also the lengths they will go to preserve the barbaric institution. In Gettysburg the same sentiments are shared, yet at this memorial guests are left with a glimmer of hope and inspiration as they recall the words of Abraham Lincoln in his famous Gettysburg Address. These places leave a powerful impression on guests because of what these battlefields represent. They are an intense reminder to our nation of the higher values that can be neglected in a people and those that must also be kindled.

The Lincoln Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial pay tribute to two individuals who gave their life for a cause that was met with intense opposition and was greater than either could have accomplished alone; Lincoln, the abolition of slavery, King, the ending of legalized segregation. Visitors who stand at the feet of Lincoln can grasp a sense of his determination. As they read the words from the Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address, visitors can understand the magnitude of the cause he was fighting for and the moral conviction he spoke with. With King, those who visit the monument are reminded of “the dream” that he inspired many others to dream and the nonviolent instruments he used to shake the people of an entire nation from the cashier working behind the counter to the executive seated behind the desk in the oval office. Visitors cannot help but feel a sense of wonder from these individuals and also a sense of remorse that both of their lives were ended by an assassin’s bullet. These memorials serve as a testament to two revolutionary leaders in American history and as a commitment to never forget where our nation has come from and where Lincoln and King were trying to lead us.

These reflections are taken from an assignment from my political leadership class at Dallas Baptist University and are written in context of the organizational frameworks that are identified by authors Bolman and Deal.
Bolman, Lee and Terrence Deal. 2013. Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership. 5th ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.