The article discussed how thousands of visitors were convening for a day full of speeches and music designed to culminate in a historical re-enactment marking this very significant event in American history. Actually, the (now completed) "Golden Spike" celebration, taking place on a remote bluff in northern Utah 66 miles (106 km) northwest of Salt Lake City called Promontory Summit, was designed as a three day event lasting from May 10-12, 2019.
It was here (in what is now a national historic park), back on May 10, 1869, that the Central Pacific Railroad from the west was joined to the Union Pacific Railroad from the east. The driving of this one last “golden” spike, coming shortly after a divisive and bloody civil war, marked not only the culmination of a six-year feat of 19th-century engineering, but also the symbolic joining together of a once divided but now unified nation from coast to coast.
At the time, in what was widely regarded as one of the nation's first media events, the original ceremony was announced by telegraph, as the single-word message "Done" was flashed across the country.
Of course, the original commemorative golden spike was immediately replaced by an ordinary iron spike in 1869. It is now on display with several related artifacts in Salt Lake City at the Utah State Capitol.
The completion of the Transcontinental railway cut coast-to-coast travel time within the young nation from several months to just a week. This in turn, greatly accelerated the settlement of the American West, helping to drive the notion of “Manifest Destiny” so popular among the American populace at the time.
As I reflected on the significance of the events referenced in this article, I thought about the importance of having a vision, and of seeing that vision through to its completion. If ever any single object signifies such a notion, surely the driving home of the famed “Golden Spike” does. The American people in the post-civil war era were clearly driven to embrace their future on the world stage as a leader among nations.
But there was another spike, equally as important as this last “golden” one, which was also driven into the ground on that Transcontinental Railroad project. And that was the very first one! I assert this because any project, any goal, any dream can never be completed unless it is first begun!
Wise men of every generation have understood this simple principle. The renowned Greek philosopher Plato is reputed to have once said that the beginning is the most important part of the any work. Likewise, Lao Tzu, the famed Chinese philosopher, also understood this principle when he said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
How astute these two men were. For if one never begins anything, how can one ever hope to complete anything? Similarly, how can anyone ever hope to go anywhere if he or she does not ever take the first step in that direction?
As we reflect on these things, we might well ask ourselves some important questions. Where are we currently in life? Where might we feel led to go from here in life? What might we feel led to accomplish henceforth in life?
Having a vision is crucial for life. The Bible itself tells us (in Proverbs 29:18) that where there is no vision, the people perish. Without a vision, without a dream, we wither and die. I hope each of us will always have some vision for the future that gives us a reason and a purpose to go forward in life.
Of course, as we dare to dream about our future, and the manifest destiny we believe God has for us, we must then decide how willing we are to embrace all of this. And ultimately, we must be willing to start by taking that first significant step. We must be willing to drive that most important of all stakes in the ground – the very first one!
In his speech at the Dedication of the Aerospace Medical Health Center in San Antonio, Texas, on November 21, 1963, President John F. Kennedy told the following story:
“Frank O’Connor, the Irish writer, tells in one of his books how, as a boy, he and his friends would make their way across the countryside, and when they came to an orchard wall that seemed too high and too doubtful to try and too difficult to permit their voyage to continue, they took off their hats and tossed them over the wall–and then they had no choice but to follow them.”
Why not toss your own hat over some wall? That is to say, why not face your own future? Why not seek to discover and then embrace your own destiny? Why not drive that first stake? And then keep on driving more and more successive stakes until the day comes when you celebrate your completed feat by driving that last great stake in the ground, symbolizing how far you have come, what all you have done, and above all, how committed you are?
After all, your future, indeed your very life, depends upon it!