May is no more. June has come. Last weekend, we honored the men and women who fought and died for our nation and its attendant benefits. Sixteen years ago, I visited Washington D.C. for the first time. I loved riding the Metro into and out of our nation’s capital. During those Metro rides into the city, I recall reading and finishing two Herman Hesse novels: Siddhartha and Steppenwolf. Both were very different in subject and tone, but they were hard to put down. Reading on the Metro or the Bus is a sheer joy for me. It provides a sense of accomplishment, but I digress.
During this initial adventure into D.C., I made a beeline for Arlington Cemetery. When I first walked into this national landmark, the hairs stood up on my neck. Never in my life had I seen so many gravestones. It was an overwhelming sight. I had a map of the cemetery because I needed to visit the tomb of the unknown solider and observe the changing of the guard. This was a solemn experience. I express it this way simply because of the honor demonstrated for this unknown soldier who died in World War I. It goes without saying that this left an impression on me.
Another somber sight had to do with the final resting place for former President John F. Kennedy, which displays the the eternal flame. This was another powerful experience. JFK remains one of the most quoted and beloved of the Presidents of the United States. I would argue that Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson are the only two that surpass JFK’s popularity. Like President Lincoln, JFK met his end due to an assassin’s bullet or bullets in the latter’s case. One of the most famous lines spoken by JFK is “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” It seems to encapsulate everything that he stood for as President of the United States.
Earlier in this piece, I mentioned former Presidents Lincoln and Jefferson in this piece. Their memorials are amazing to witness. These two men spearheaded difficult times for our nation. Jefferson helped lead the original, thirteen colonies into their independence from British rule. He is one of our nation’s Founding Fathers in addition to being one of the principal authors of the Declaration of Independence. In many ways, Lincoln surpasses Jefferson because he pretty much saved the United States. He kept the nation together, united as one, rather than seeing it rupture into two separate nations. Lincoln paid for this accomplishment with his life.
All of the above had been swirling around in my mind. Earlier in the day, I came across the following verse during my Bible reading. I light came on, and things crystallized in my mind. Here is the passage:
“When there is no guidance a nation falls, but there is success in the abundance of counselors” (Proverbs 11:14, NET).
“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Prov. 11:14, ESV).
I live in a great nation where there has been guidance and an abundance of counselors. It started out that way for its independence while relying on Lincoln and his supporters to navigate the dark waters of civil war. The United States of America stands today because of the sure foundation built by the Founders and sustained by men like Lincoln. My hope and prayer is that today’s leaders would return to the values and beliefs of our heritage. It is rich, deep, and wide.