Independence – opportunity

As I ponder the Fourth of July celebrations, my first thought was independence, and how it led to opportunities for those from around the world to come to a place to worship as they choose, with an independent free will created by God Himself, freedom from government dictating how to live.  Government would be by the people, for the people – with the federal government being responsible for safety and security of its citizens, enabling them to prosper and pursue happiness. 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.Preamble to the Declaration of Independence (https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration)

I thought about how conflict arose, and the many lives lost between early settlers and the motherland – Great Britain.  Although there were struggles and loss of life throughout the early years, and each generation thereafter, life, liberty and pursuit of happiness were destined to prevail. 

The individual, independent states formed a republic with representation in the federal government.  The government provided a common defense, allowing the people to be creative – expanding the new nation, building for themselves a new home, wherever their adventures would take them.

With the expansion west, it became evident travelers and settlers needed an efficient, and safer, means of transportation.  The people were on the move to build a greater nation and accept those of all nations who yearn for freedom, although it also came at the demise of the Native American. 

With the great expansion out west, how could organization, peace and unity be established? 

In the 1850s Congress commissioned several topographical surveys across the Western U.S. to determine the best route for a railroad.  However, private corporations were reluctant to undertake the task without federal assistance. The Pacific Railroad Act designated the 32nd parallel as the initial transcontinental route and gave huge grants of land for rights-of-way. 

The act authorized two railroad companies, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific, to construct the lines. Beginning in 1863, the Union Pacific, employing more than 8,000 Irish, German, and Italian immigrants, built west from Omaha, NE.

The Central Pacific, whose workforce included more than 10,000 Chinese laborers, built eastward from Sacramento, CA. 

Photo of poster in Union Pacific Historic Depot Museum (Artist Art Kober, Thunder on the Plains)

“Each company faced unprecedented construction problems—mountains, severe weather, and the hostility of American Indians. On May 10, 1869, in a ceremony at Promontory, UT, the last rails were laid and the last spike driven. Congress eventually authorized four transcontinental railroads and granted 174 million acres of public lands for rights-of-way.” https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/pacific-railroad-act

Union Pacific Railroad Depot – national historic landmark, was built in 1886 and given to the community of Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1993 by the Union Pacific Railroad Company.

The railroad vastly improved development out west and state governments had to be formed. 

Cheyenne was born in 1867 in the path of the transcontinental railroad, when the Union Pacific crews arrived to lay tracks westward. Cheyenne soon laid claim to a higher status than older Wyoming settlements such as those at Fort Laramie, Fort Bridger, and the mining town of South Pass City, changing Cheyenne from a village to a city in a matter of months. The seat of the new territorial government was established in Cheyenne in 1869.

Women were instrumental in settling the west with their new freedoms and opportunity. They too had dreams and aspirations. No doubt they faced many obstacles and persevered, making way for Wyoming to be the first state to grant women the right to vote.

Wyoming began construction of the state capitol building before statehood (becoming a member of the United States), located north of downtown Cheyenne.

Although we didn’t see them during our visit while the renovation was being completed, the exterior approach to the front steps of the capitol features the State Seal in granite as well as two statues:

Esther Hobart Morris, who had a significant role in gaining women’s suffrage in the Wyoming Territory. The statue was sculpted by Avard Fairbanks. The act to grant women the right to vote was passed by the First Territorial Assembly and signed by Governor John Allen Campbell on December 10, 1869. Wyoming became the first government in the world to grant women the right to vote. Morris was also appointed as the first female Justice of the Peace in the territory during 1870. 

Chief Washakie of the Shoshone tribe. The statue was sculpted by Dave McGary. Chief Washakie earned a reputation that lives on today – a fierce warrior, skilled politician and diplomat, great leader of the Shoshone people, friend to white men. Washakie granted right-of-way through Shoshone land in western Wyoming to the Union Pacific Railroad, aiding the completion of the transcontinental railroad. The famed leader and warrior died at the age of 102 in 1900. He was buried with full military honors at Fort Washakie. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wyoming_State_Capitol

A replica of Esther Hobart Morris and Chief Washakie is in the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.

So, as we celebrate independence as a nation of all who dream to be free, let’s be mindful of the myriads from all nations and walks of life who contributed to this worthy cause, often having their own lives taken in pursuit of their dreams and freedoms. Let’s take these differences and unify them for life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. 

Blessings along the Way!

Ron

Continue the Dream

Statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

History is full of simple to resplendent dreams for those who dare.  I’m confident each of us has dreams and aspirations of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. 

Many dreams die in the night, not able to be nurtured toward fruition.  Life is like that.

Some dreams culminate in our personal lives while some benefit humankind. 

Where many dreams have died, there are those who awoke amidst the turmoil and strife, arousing the dream of tomorrow in each beautiful life.

Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The Lincoln Memorial reminded be of one who stepped beyond defeat and the weight that suppressed, to rebuild a nation under God that recognizes the rights of each – recognizing that each person is created in the image of God with equal rights under His law. 

Abraham Lincoln saw equality in each human being and kept the dream toward a new beginning for those who struggled for life itself. 

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Robert Musso Moton shared these words at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial “With malice toward none, with charity for all we dedicate ourselves and our posterity, with you and yours, to finish the work which he so nobly began, to make America an example for all the world of equal justice and equal opportunity for all.” Robert Russo Moton, Address at the Lincoln Memorial dedication, May 30, 1922

A National Stage for Civil Rights

The Lincoln Memorial was built in 1922 to heal national divisions caused by the Civil War.  Yet for many, Lincoln’s promise of freedom remained incomplete.  Over the next half century, the looming figure of Abraham Lincoln witnessed a number of events and demonstrations that reinforced the memorial’s importance as a symbolic space for civil rights movements.  http://americanhistory.si.edu/changing-america-emancipation-proclamation-1863-and-march-washington-1963/1963/lincoln-memorial

Another leader of freedom Martin Luther King Jr, arose with a dream for all to be free in a nation that was founded on freedom for all.  This dream permeates the world where even today there are those in every nation who cannot yet enjoy the pleasures of a free life. 

Martin Luther King Jr, believed in the ideals of a nation were every child, teen and adult can enjoy God’s wonderful world without fear, intimidation or prejudice – being free to enjoy every aspect of life.

The Lincoln Memorial is a landmark where he shared his dream to the world – “I have a Dream” speaking on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. 

Excerpts:

“I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'” (personal addition – women too)

“When we allow freedom to ring – when we let it ring from every city and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last, Free at last, Great God a-mighty, We are free at last.'”

See the similarities between Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.?  They lived short lives but made a profound impact to the world.

Excerpt of Abraham Lincoln from the education center at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.

“I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal.” Abraham Lincoln  (https://www.keepinspiring.me/abraham-lincoln-quotes) (personal note – women included)

Let’s continued the dream!

Blessings and love along the way,

Ron

Remembering the sacrifice

Memorial Day 2009 (50)
Taps are played by the Florida National Guard at the National Cemetery in St. Augustine to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. (RonLin Photography)

Throughout the world, and history, there have been those who served honorably for the cause of freedom so our nations may have peace from conflict, enabling them to pursue and enjoy the rights bestowed upon each individual.  Let’s not let go of these sacrifices.

Although each nation does not have a perfect union I am thankful for the rights we hold dear today – and the sacrifice of those who helped make it possible to have a free society, allowing us to dream and follow those dreams freely.

Memorial Day is an annual, formal holiday in the United States to honor military service members who died in the line of duty.  The date changes each year but is held on the last Monday in May.  It was originally called Decoration Day, as the holiday was centered on decorating the graves of those who had fallen in the U.S. Civil War.   http://www.holidayscalendar.com/event/memorial-day/

I want to highlight the U.S. National Cemetery in St. Augustine, Fla. as the 2018 emphasis to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

St. Augustine National Cemetery - VA Admin photo
The U.S. National Cemetery in St. Augustine, Fla. is managed by Veterans Affairs. (VA Photo)    https:/cem.va.gov/cems/nchp/staugustine

St. Augustine National Cemetery traces its history back to a Spanish monastery founded during the 18th century.  Today, the cemetery perhaps is best known as the home of the Dade Pyramids, believed to be the oldest memorial in any national cemetery.  The cemetery also features a unique Spanish Colonial-style superintendent’s lodge designed to complement the historic architecture found throughout St. Augustine.  https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/national_cemeteries/florida/st_augustine_national_cemetery.html

Founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers, the city of St. Augustine is the oldest continuously inhabited European city in the United States.  According to the National Park Service the land upon which the national cemetery sits was originally part of a Franciscan monastery that operated until the English took possession of Florida in 1763, converting the monastery into the St. Francis Barracks.  The Spanish regained possession of the territory in 1783 and held it until 1821, when Florida became a part of the United States; all the while, the site remained a military installation.

A portion of the yard at the St. Francis Barracks was set aside for use as a post cemetery, with the first burials occurring in 1828.  Most of the early burials in the cemetery were casualties of the Indian Wars, a series of conflicts waged between 1817 and 1858 as the United States forcibly removed Native Americans, notably the Seminole tribes, to lands west of the Mississippi.  Later burials include those of Union soldiers. Although Florida seceded in 1861, Union troops captured St. Augustine in March 1862 when the gunboat Wabash entered the harbor.

In 1881, the post cemetery was elevated in status to a national cemetery, as stated by the National Park Service.  “St. Augustine National Cemetery covers a 1.3-acre rectangular site at the edge of what was once the walled Spanish city.  The northern half of the grounds are enclosed by locally quarried Coquina stone walls, while a wrought-iron fence surrounds the southern half.  Four pedestrian gates, two each along the eastern and western walls, allow access to the cemetery.  Walkways connect each gate to its counterpart along the opposite wall, and a central avenue serves as the physical and symbolic link between the flagpole at the north end of the grounds and the Dade Pyramids at the south end.  Also at the north end of the cemetery is the superintendent’s lodge.  Built in 1938 out of Coquina stone, the lodge is in the Spanish Colonial style, like much of St. Augustine.  The nearby rostrum is also composed of Coquina stone.”

The cemetery is a solemn and appropriate location to recognize those who championed freedom through the ages.  The public gathers annually for the Memorial Day ceremony.

Memorial Day 2009 (62)
Representatives from various veteran and military organizations parade their colors to begin the annual ceremony at the National Cemetery in St. Augustine. (RonLin Photography)

Memorial Day 2009 (67)
World War II veterans who remain continue to show their respect for those who served and died.  (RonLin Photography)

Memorial Day 2009 (60)
Honors are presented to remind those present that we will not forget.  Providing the honors is typically done by the Florida National Guard, Florida Department of Military Affairs, local law enforcement and veteran organizations. (RonLin Photography)

Memorial Day 2009 (54)
We salute those who died serving on behalf of a grateful nation to help secure and maintain the freedoms we hold dear today.  (RonLin Photography)

Let us take time around the world to recognize those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nations, including their families.  Where would we be today had it not been for them.

With Love, Ron

#memorialday2018

St. Augustine National Cemetery is located at 104 Marine St. in St. Augustine, FL.  The cemetery is open for visitation daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm; on Memorial Day the cemetery is open for visitation from 8:00am to 7:00pm.  No cemetery staff is present onsite.  For more information, please contact the cemetery office at 904-766-5222, or see the Department of Veterans Affairs website.  While visiting, please be mindful that our national cemeteries are hallowed ground.  Be respectful to all of our nation’s fallen soldiers and their families.  Additional cemetery policies may be posted on site.