There is only one way to experience the full impact of the Lincoln Memorial. Do not turn around until you reach the top.
When you arrive at the base of the steps, look up. You must focus only on the steps. As you begin your walk up, you will want to stop and turn around. You may stop, but you must not turn around. When you (finally) reach the top, and you finally turn around, you will experience one of the most incredible All-American views possible. You will see what Martin Luther King, Jr. saw. This is America.
Then you can walk up to Lincoln, who is always much bigger than expected, even if you have been here many times. And the simple inscription says more than any history book could:
IN THIS TEMPLE
AS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE
FOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNION
THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
IS ENSHRINED FOREVER
Where I grew up, our license plates said “Land of Lincoln,” so we have a special place for this legend. There isn’t a lot to read here. There are no interpretive signs, simply text from the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Speech in letters almost too big to read. But you must read them, and you will feel the strength, the sorrow, and the hope of this great man.
Happy Independence Day.