This past weekend, I took a long walk through American history. It started near the Marine Corps Barracks where a flag with but 15 stars has flown since 1801. The stars signified the number of states that existed when Thomas Jefferson took his oath of office.

My path then took me past the United States Capitol with its temporary staging, risers, and fencing. Workers were setting up security tents for the nation’s 58th Inauguration. The flagpoles above the Senate and the House of Representatives flew no flags, signifying that neither chamber was in session.

Continuing along Independence Avenue, the Department of Health and Human Service, Voice of America, Departments of Education and Agriculture—all massive structures and equally massive institutions—reminded me of the political challenges that American citizens have endured and, eventually, faced head on with courage and wisdom.

Across the broad avenue designed by L’Enfant stands the Native American Museum, the Air and Space Museum, and museums dedicated to modern, African, and Asian art. Their displays tell stories about the most exciting moments and most dire moments in our history, the times when our high ideals clashed with harsh realities, the times when courage and wisdom led us to make heart searing choices.

But my walk had an objective—the monuments to Martin Luther King, Jr., Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson. It was not their statues I sought out but their quotes, timeless quotes for unsettling times, words of courage and wisdom engraved in stone. I felt the need to be reassured, inspired, and prepared for the challenges we face in aging services in the coming months and years.

What I found were these enduring words of courage and wisdom:

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience and comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

Martin Luther King, Jr.— Strength to Love, 1963.

"I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished. The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt — January 20, 1937

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men. We...solemnly publish and declare, that these colonies are and of a right ought to be free and independent states...and for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honour."

Thomas Jefferson — Excerpt from the Declaration of Independence, 1776.

So, as the United States of America prepares to conduct its 58th Inauguration—a peaceful transfer of power that no other people on earth has been so fortunate to experience—I found my walk to be remarkably comforting. For in each instance, my heroes’ words pointed to their deep faith in the citizens of this country to meet every challenge, to find the strength to unite against the common enemies of mankind, to secure their own and their fellow citizens’ freedoms.

From 1789 when George Washington took the oath of office until Donald Trump repeats those same words, words written into the Constitution by our Founders, we have grown from thirteen states with 3.8 million citizens to fifty states plus the District of Columbia with 324.4 million citizens. It is, if you think about it, a remarkable journey, one that is only in midcourse, one that all of us are taking together.

With the courage to overcome challenges we face and the wisdom to pursue a path inclusive of all, surely we can pledge “our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honour” to those self-evident truths that have guided us since 1776.