Abe Lincoln

I’m going to show my age with this next question.  Have you ever lost a picture?

I decided what I wanted to write about today, for Lincoln’s birthday, and I got really excited.  When my sister and I were kids, we took a trip across the country that impacted our world view for the rest of our lives.  My favorite moment from that trip was captured in a photograph.  When I tried to track it down last week, I discovered that the image is nowhere to be found.  It was taken in the age of film, when clouds were something you stared up at from a blanket on the grass.  The thought of losing that picture brought tears to my eyes.  And then I realized that the thing I was emotional about wasn’t the picture.  The tears in my eyes were tied to a memory:  when two little girls realized that their lives weren’t limited by lines on a map or lessons in a book.



Although he won't remember this trip, it's a memory I will cherish forever.

Taking my son to the same steps I visited as a kid was one of the most wonderful moments of my life so far.

With the picture hidden in the dark corner of a storage unit somewhere and the film long gone, all I’m left to share with you is a memory.  When I close my eyes, I can see it clearly: two girls, the smaller one with straight, brown hair, the older one with dark, frizzy curls, both wearing puffy 80’s winter coats, standing together on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  Before our parents snapped the photo, I remember staring up at the massive structure, overwhelmed by the magnitude of the words etched on its walls.  I didn’t understand what they meant in the grand scheme of our nation’s history, but I felt the power behind the words.  Even with the cold air biting my face, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from those walls.  Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the figure of Lincoln, seated thoughtfully, watching me as I tried to wrap my mind around his words.  That moment sparked something inside of me that still shapes my life today.

“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true.  I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.”

― Abraham Lincoln

Standing in the shadows of Lincoln’s watchful eye, a tiny flame came to life in the back of my mind.  From that point forward, the most impactful decisions in my life were extensions of that moment. What started as a spark became a flame that lit the way to each turning point in my life.  To this day, I have trouble explaining why I chose to join the Air Force.  I just know that the thought of serving my country stoked the same flame that was lit 10 years earlier at the Lincoln memorial.  Both my sister and I grew up to blaze our own trails.  My sister is the ultimate expatriate, from the Peace Corps in Kazakhstan, to a nonprofit in Kathmandu, to growing her family in New Zealand, stretching her influence as an entrepreneur and pioneer in global education.

My thoughts still go back to that picture.  I could have read the same words in a book and they would have gone in one ear and out the other.  I would have been intrigued, but not captivated like I was standing in the cold air that day almost 30 years ago.  As I sit typing with my 7-month old son in my arms today, I am in awe of his curiosity.  As he grows older and opportunities for learning go beyond grabbing a spoon, or learning to put one foot in front of the other, I wonder what moments will shape his journey.

Written by Angelina Stephens


Stay tuned for Part 2…with an exciting perspective on how to build character through impactful, engaged learning.  Get a glimpse into an education revolution that is building innovative leaders for the next generation!

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