Years ago, I tutored inner-city kids from my Washington, D.C., community in Columbia Heights. I would often take them to my favorite monument—the Lincoln Memorial. I would stand with them and help them read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address written on the huge walls on either side of Lincoln’s impressive statuary.
We would take the time to sound out each syllable, word, and sentence until they got it right, “With malice toward none, with charity for all …” While they were learning to read, I wanted them to absorb the words of Lincoln.
This, too, was the place Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech before the throngs gathered for the March on Washington—50 years ago this August. On some anniversaries, my wife Joy and I would go to the Lincoln Memorial with our family and friends, sit in a circle, and together read the speech with our two boys. Other times, when I needed to think, I would just go there alone, sit on the steps, and look over the Reflecting Pool to the Washington Monument.
I recently went back there to tell the story of how and why I wrote my new book, On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned About Serving the Common Good. And I reflected on my favorite Lincoln quote, displayed on the book’s cover:
“My concern is not whether God is on our side: my greatest concern is to be on God’s side.”
Jim Wallis is CEO of Sojourners. His forthcoming book, On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned About Serving the Common Good, is now available. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis and find him on Facebook HERE.