A Majestic Rotunda
I don’t “pull all-nighters” anymore. But last night was an exception as I watched the United States Congress complete the task of certifying the Electoral College outcome. Now we await the inauguration of a new President with shocking images from yesterday burned into our memories. Like the Challenger explosion or the Kennedy assassination or scenes from a Selma bridge, we will remember for a long time, maybe forever.
For years, the Capitol building was a television image for me. And then my work took me to Washington, D.C., frequently, and I began to collect stories to share with my history students. Today I recall that the majestic rotunda was only partially constructed when Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as the nation’s 16th President. In the Civil War years ahead, Congress debated frequently whether to continue to appropriate scarce dollars for the project.
Lincoln was an advocate. He believed that citizens would see the ongoing construction on the rotunda and would know that the union itself would remain intact. And maybe there is a metaphor here. Work began on the Capitol building in 1793 and continues today with periodic expansions and renovations. So too our democracy — always under construction and never to be taken for granted.
Rebecca L. Sherrick, PhD