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A flame still burns on Washington Hill

I love looking back into the archives and seeing life as it was back when. The column you are about to read comes from 2003 but was revisited a decade later, as you’ll see. We were on the heels of a great crisis in ‘o3 as you well remember, but the notes from a decade later sound a bit ominous, too. 

It’s kind of funny, as we say, that every generation has its own crises, and they never stop coming. We have a different one right now than we ever have had before.

 But I’ll tell you what I hope to be true with all my being — there’s a flame that is burning now, and that flame will keep burning, on and on. 

By the time you read this, the nation will have made all the gaudy preparations for a historical event up in Washington, D.C. Some of the greatest entertainers will be there, and dignitaries, with the new president front and center.

But what might be overlooked – if we are not careful – are a thousand historical reminders of where we came from, who we are, and what made us great in the very beginning. 

We will be thankful for those reminders, and, if we’ll focus carefully on them, their silent aura will drown out the petty chatter we could hear, if we cared to listen.

As I thought of the historical significance of this day, I thought of a trip the amazin’ blonde and I took up to this part of history back in 2003. 

Our first order of business was to visit our son Malachi who was working in that part of the world at the time; but we also were able to take in some of America’s rich history. Before we left, those powerful sights would grip us and change us, just a bit, forever. 

There were so many great sights to behold on this northern tour:

We saw the hills of Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley, Delaware, and New Jersey.

We saw New York City, and the Statue of Liberty standing proudly in the fog.

 And we saw the emptiness of a place called Ground Zero.

 But I think the most gripping scenes from this historical tour were those in Washington D.C.

We stood in front of Mr. Lincoln, sitting every bit as tall and proud as the lady in the Hudson Bay. 

His famous speech is engraved on a huge nearby wall: Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty …”

 You know the occasion.

 Standing where Abraham Lincoln sat, and looking out as he looked, we saw the Washington Monument stretching up 550 towering feet.

 It’s not much more than a couple of stone throws from the majestic White House tucked away nicely in the middle of the city, like a child in a blanket.

 Those scenes were inspiring, but it would be the next scene that was the most awe-inspiring of all.

 And the most convicting, too.

 About a mile from Mr. Lincoln, just across the Potomac River, is a cemetery where men who lived serving their country and many who died doing the same now rest.

 Crossing the Potomac – as our first president did in time of war – and heading uphill amidst a thousand white markers, you soon find yourself up at the peak of Arlington.

 It is there that we saw the scene that brought a little lump to my throat.

 I don’t know exactly what it was about it.

 It could have been the quiet respect of those dozens of Americans milling around viewing the scene at the top.

 It could have been the marble boulders around the area with words of some of the greatest orations in this country’s history, including “Ask not what your country can do for you …”

 Maybe it was that two of the four graves marked at the top of Arlington were two children who never had a chance to live their lives.

 Or perhaps it was the grave of the wife who rode alongside her husband when the world stopped abruptly for us all.

 And, certainly, it was the grave of that husband resting beside those two small children and his wife, the president whose work ended not far from where I write today, down in Dallas.

 But I think something else added to the moment.

There beside these four graves, in the nation’s most renowned cemetery, a flame burns.

 The flame always burns, night and day.

 It is a flame of love, a flame of dedication and allegiance, a flame of faith.

 And it could not, cannot, will not be put out!

 Not by an assassin’s bullet.

 Not by a terrorist.

 Not by a foreign power.

 And not by liberal dogma.

 The only power that could ever extinguish this flame is ourselves – by our own carelessness, by a loss of values, by faded memories in both high and low places.

 We must make sure our memories stay strong. The flame must keep burning. 

~ August 9, 2003