Housed in the Washington NEWSEUM are eight panels of the Berlin wall and one watchtower from which snipers would target East Germans trying to climb over, burrow under or sneak through the barrier to West Germany. It is a powerful and staggering historical artifact to encounter. It is a gruesome, and therefore unfathomable, fact of history to stand before. But the fact that I can now stand before it produces an overwhelming reassurance. This is a testament of hope.
At Arlington Cemetery, just outside of DC, this quote is engraved on a stone wall that abuts a small, still pool of water. It is an excerpt from Robert Kennedy’s Day of Affirmation speech at the University of Cape Town in 1966 in the midst of South Africa’s brutal system of apartheid:
“It is from numberless acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”