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'Let freedom ring:' Hundreds honor Abraham Lincoln, 100-year history of Lincoln Memorial

WJLA – Washington D.C. logo WJLA – Washington D.C. 5/23/2022 Nick Minock
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On Sunday, hundreds of people gathered in front the of steps of the Lincoln Memorial to rededicate the memorial after standing the test of time for 100 years.

Rev. Sarah Johnson of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, where President Lincoln attended church with some of his cabinet members, deliver the invocation.

“As we sit in the shadow of this great monument we remember and give thanks for the life and legacy of President Abraham Lincoln,” she said. “And his unwavering commitment that a government of the people by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Lincoln Memorial centennial celebration draws 'thousands' to National Mall  

For Charlotte Morris, the rededication is an important milestone and a time for reflection.

“Lincoln’s vision has become the hallmark of our democracy,” said Dr. Charlotte Morris, the President of Tuskegee University. “We must concede that President Lincoln was more than the great emancipator. He was a visionary guardian of freedom, truth, and justice.”
“To me, he was the president that believed in equal justice for everyone,” Morris told 7News.
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Throughout its 100-year history, the Lincoln Memorial has stood as a place for national celebrations, calls for change, and a place of family memories.

“The first time I came here was in 1970. I was three years old and posed on the steps like everybody else. [I have a] picture of my mother and I,” said Mike Litterst, the National Mall Spokesperson.

Litterst and his colleagues at the National Park Service take pride in preserving the memorial for generations to enjoy and learn.

“It was the very first Memorial I visited here in Washington DC in 1989,” said Charles Sams III, the Director of the NPS. “As a young sailor, the words that are inscribed on the wall, both the second inaugural and the Gettysburg Address, really speak to us as a nation. That really shows the importance that the only one that will sow the seeds of our own destruction is ourselves.”

Sams is the first American Indian Director to lead the NPS.

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The Secretary of Interior, Deb Haaland, ceremonially swore in Sams to his position in the spot where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream Speech” At the Lincoln Memorial nearly 60 years ago.

“The Lincoln Memorial draws so many people to express their First Amendment right,” Sams told 7News. “You know, Marian Anderson in 1939, wasn't allowed to perform a Constitution Hall. And Eleanor Roosevelt made sure this was also available for her and she spoke to a crowd and sang to a crowd of over 50,000 people. You fast forward to 1963 and you have Dr. King on these various steps, giving his “I Have a Dream speech.” This memorial really does express the ability of Americans to come out and be able to tell their story and be able to tell their being who they are under the First Amendment. And we actually want to empower that as part of the National Parks. I'm so very pleased to be able to work with the staff here. The National Mall staff worked very hard to ensure the American public can enjoy these monuments and memorials every day of the year. We are in the forever business to ensure these are here for future generations.”

In the bustling backdrop of the ceremony, thousands of people from across the nation visited the memorial, but as soon Felicia Curry sang "The Star-Spangled Banner," every visitor stopped what they were doing - putting their hands on their hearts - in reverence.

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