The summer 2015 class of Newsmax interns hit the streets of Washington, D.C., to explore, report, and learn. This series features a look at D.C., including monuments, memorials, and museums, through the eyes of a Millennial.
Looking around the Lincoln Memorial on a summer weekday, it doesn't take too long to notice that, despite the masses of older couples and families, people in the 20s seem to be a relatively underrepresented demographic. The ones who opted to spend their morning there, however, absorbed the monument’s message and praised the structure for its depiction of Lincoln’s successes.
“It’s kind of overwhelming,” Sofia Daya, a 20-year-old from North Carolina, admitted to Newsmax.
“I mean it’s huge. You see it on the back of a penny and then you see it in person and it’s kind of ridiculous how big it is,” said her sister, 22-year-old Serena Daya.
After the girls’ initial shock about the size of the monument, they went on to talk about Lincoln’s achievements.
“I think Lincoln as a president, especially in our country now, we should remember, you know, what it was about,” Serena Daya said, admitting that the recent Confederate Flag controversy was especially important in their home state of North Carolina.
And much like today’s dual meaning of the controversial flag from the war that defines Lincoln’s legacy, the overall duality of the Lincoln Memorial and its symbolism is especially notable to Millennial Americans today.
First, there is the way in which the chambers of the interior level of the monument are separated. Between Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address inscribed on the north wall of the monument and his Gettysburg Address on the south wall sits Lincoln’s statue, forever grounded between the north and south, much like how he united both sides of the Civil War.
“I think it’s pretty spectacular that someone said, ‘You know what, I’m going to put aside whatever people think and understand that I’m the president of this country and I have to do what’s best for the people.’ And I think that’s pretty remarkable,” Serena Daya said of Lincoln’s reunification of the north and south.
The duality goes beyond Lincoln’s most well known accomplishment and delves into the more discreet symbols of the memorial.
Also similar to the Confederate flag’s dual meanings — either as a symbol of the South or a symbol of oppression — the often overlooked fasces, or the axe and sticks bound together by leather, engraved beneath Lincoln’s hands and outside the edifice have served as a symbol of both democracy and, as their name suggests, fascism.
In Ancient Rome, the fasces were a symbol of the executive authority’s power, as the sticks signified law enforcement and punishment by beating while the axe meant beheading. The symbol that is repeatedly engraved within the monument served as the founding principle for Germany’s Nazi Party and Italy’s National Fascist Party.
Again, the symbol takes on a dual significance in the Lincoln Memorial. The fasces that lie outside the Parthenon-inspired building represent unity, with the bundle of sticks signifying the 36 states Lincoln used his power to hold together. Bald eagles sit atop the axes, which stand for a more modern meaning of authority, and on the two fasces on the steps of the memorial to make the Roman sign more patriotic.
To a 20-year-old, the Lincoln Memorial, with all of its symbols, most encompasses the values the “great emancipator” held foremost: strong-willed leadership, patriotism, and unity. This view differs little from that of other generations.
“I see passion and I see love of country,” Ted Mergenthaler, 61, of Pasadena, California, said of the memorial.
“It’s a great testament to a man who kept the union together,” he continued.
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