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Two Ways of Looking

Monday - 02/15/2021 — I’ve always loved this statue, but it took standing before it many years ago before I comprehended just how majestic it is.


On the National Park Service website, I found this explanation of why Lincoln was depicted as he was. The bolding in these two paragraphs is mine, by the way.


Daniel Chester French devoted several years to researching Abraham Lincoln and studying photographs of him. French decided that the special qualities found in the sixteenth president were his strength combined with his compassionate nature. In what ways did French portray these characteristics in his statue?

French depicted the president as a worn but strong individual who had endured many hardships. He positioned Lincoln's hands in a manner that displayed his two leading qualities. One of the president's hands is clenched, representing his strength and determination to see the war through to a successful conclusion. The other hand is a more open, slightly more relaxed hand representing his compassionate, warm nature.


But there’s another reason, one that any person who speaks ASL will recognize. Although this theory has never been proven one way or another, it is thought by many that Lincoln’s hands represent his own initials in American Sign Language—his left hand an A, and his right hand an L. The statue’s designer, Daniel Chester French, was responsible for another statue on the campus of Gallaudet College that shows Gallaudet fingerspelling the letter A to his pupil Alice. It symbolizes a new beginning of education for the little girl.


What does any of this have to do with my own memoirs? Well, I think it emphasizes how often we interpret the world to fit our preconceptions of it. I’m trying to remember that the world doesn’t revolve around me [Wait!! It doesn’t???]


Still, if I want to see Lincoln’s statue from the viewpoint of someone who is deaf OR see it from the viewpoint of the National Park Service, shouldn’t I have that option? Better yet, how about seeing Lincoln’s hands BOTH ways?



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