This essay originally appeared on the Global Solutions website.
April 15, 2015, is the 150th anniversary of the death of Abraham Lincoln. He was shot shortly after 10 PM on the night of April 14th, 1865, inside Ford’s Theatre, then was carried across the street: 10th Street, between E and F, NW, to the Petersen boarding house, where he expired at 7:22 AM the next morning.
Since I live in Washington, DC, and since I am usually a bit of a night owl, I spent some time there last night and into this morning. The solemnity of the candlelight vigil in the middle of 10th Street in the middle of the night, commemorating the hours when the president lay dying, was quite moving to me — and, it seemed, to virtually all the participants.
I spent some time touring the museum in the Ford’s Theatre basement, and the recently-opened “Center for Education and Leadership” immediately adjacent to the Petersen House. I have done this before and will undoubtedly do it again.
But this time, I noticed something new.
Daniel Webster, in a famous 1837 speech, said of our United States of America: “One country, one constitution, one destiny.” The first and last of those clauses was apparently embroidered into the lining of the “great coat” that Abraham Lincoln wore to Ford’s Theater on the night of April 14, 1865. Whether this was the choice of the client, or instead of a tailor particularly well-attuned to the particular sympathies of this particular client, appears to be historically unclear.
But the very delicate remaining fabric of the lining is now on display at the Center, and you can see the four words quite clearly. “One Country One Destiny,” it states, in delicate thread, a century and a half later still quite vivid.
So there I am, back in the middle of 10th street in the middle of the night, surrounded by people mostly thinking about the unity of our one country, the United States of America forged in the crucible of civil war.
But for me, I suspect alone in the street last night, it set me to wondering. To speculating about the future. To dreaming.
Would it be too much to suggest that the sentiment embroidered inside Lincoln’s great coat might someday apply not just to the United States of America, but to the single family of humankind?