On this day in 1776…
On this day in 1865…
On this day in 1968…
A common thread
The mere mention of those years is enough to evoke some of the most profound events and images from our nation’s history.
As it turns out, April 4th has seen several of them.
In 1776, General George Washington begins marching his unpaid soldiers toward New York in anticipation of a British invasion. Ironically, the inability of Congress to pay its soldiers and expenses, even after winning the war, led to the overthrow of the Articles of Confederation and the drafting of the Constitution, providing greater ability to raise and manage funds.
In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln has a dream about his own assassination. Then, it happened just ten days later.
‘Who is dead in the White House?’ I demanded of one of the soldiers, ‘The President,’ was his answer; ‘he was killed by an assassin.’ Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which woke me from my dream. I slept no more that night; and although it was only a dream, I have been strangely annoyed by it ever since.
In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated while standing on the balcony outside his second-story room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He was 39 years old.
The day prior, he gave his last sermon, saying:
“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop… . I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”
A common thread runs through all of these events. Each of these men seemed to understand, despite tremendous national and personal challenges, they were playing a part in something bigger than themselves. Thus, they persevered. First, in forming America, then keeping it together, and finally, unifying its citizens. Their examples all speak to our national motto: “In God We Trust.”
Indeed, we find that same sentiment in the final stanza of Francis Scott Key’s poem “The Star-Spangled Banner:”
“Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”