The Abraham Lincoln Memorial, standing at the west end of theNational Mall, is a neoclassical monument built to resemble a Greek temple. It has 36 Doric columns, one for each state at the time of Lincoln”s death. A sculpture by Daniel Chester French of a seated Lincoln commands the center of the memorial chamber. From his perch, Lincoln appears to be looking over the Reflecting Pool to theWashington Monument, a setting of intense visual power. So moving, as a symbol of freedom, that this shrine was also the setting of Martin Luther King”s famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.
The Abraham Lincoln Memorial is perhaps the most deeply moving American icon celebrating democratic ideals in the world. It glorifies the colossal achievements that have kept the nation together for over two centuries. Inscribed in enormous letters on the south wall of the monument is the thought-provoking Gettysburg Address.
Modeled after the Parthenon in Athens, the Abraham Lincoln Memorial aspires to remind us of the tremendous ancient Greeks, the first modern culture to practice a form of democratic government. In addition, it serves as a national Civil War memorial, recalling the horrific violence and destruction the conflict reeked on the land and a whole American generation. The lessons it taught about our government, in its ability to weather a civil war and re-emerge a unified and improved democracy, have made the history Lincoln Memorial represents so important. The Memorial itself has become a dignified symbol of that democracy.