Possessing the statuesque and streamlined form of a classic obelisk and constructed of native “marble, granite, and bluestone gneiss,” the Washington Monument was brought to completion on this day in 1888.
Though construction of the monument began in 1848, and the stone portion was finished in 1884, the structure suffered a host of setbacks for decades along the way.
As is the case with many a financially-challenging quest, funding was at times an issue and there were also internal control conflicts within the Washington National Monument Society during its construction. And of course, the start of the Civil War presented no less than a “monumental” challenge as well.
Piercing the cornflower blue skies of Washington D.C., the Washington Monument soars to a “nosebleed level” of 555 feet. In fact, until the magnificent Eiffel Tower came to fruition in Paris, France in 1889, it was actually the highest structure on earth!
So what must one do in order to become so beloved by the citizenry, that they clamor to erect something beautiful and enduring upon which they and their off-spring might gaze so that they may reflect upon the timeless character and achievements of such a person? While the answer is complicated, it is at the same time very simple.
George Washington was never beguiled by his own reflection as his gaze was always steadfastly fixed on the future of the republic he’d been entrusted to lead. He saw far past the totality of his earthly existence and yearned to leave a legacy of liberty and a fountain of hope for succeeding generations.
It didn’t matter to him that he might not live to see his vision fully accomplished as it was so much larger than he. Perhaps the key is to follow his example and concern ourselves far less with what folks think of us in the moment and care more about the eternal consequences of our actions. The legacy we leave behind matters. A lot. In fact, it’s really the only thing for which we’ll be remembered.
The next time you find yourself at the foot of the majestic Washington Monument, let it remind you of the towering greatness of George Washington as he rises above the daily minutiae that distracts many of us and tragically keeps us from fulfilling our God-glorifying potential.
And then as you ascend the impossibly tall obelisk and reach the pinnacle, look all about you at the heavens surrounding you, eternity as far as the eye can see. This is the moment that our first great leader was created for just as it is for you and me. May your thoughts and actions always aim heavenward.
“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing.” – Benjamin Franklin