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  • Dan Connors

March Through the Arch 2020

Updated: Dec 16, 2019

"It is right that this monument is a majestic, towering arch ... and open, beckoning marker that implies not arrival but continuing journey. The arch is to the West ... and to the future ... a soaring curve in the sky that links the rich heritage of yesterday and the richer future of tomorrow." Vice-President Hubert Humphrey on the dedication of the Gateway Arch.

Every year at the start of the school year the entire freshman class and all other new students at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois participate in something called the March through the Arch. It is meant to symbolize their entry into the new world of college and all that comes with it. They pass by alumni, teachers, friends, and current students who line the pathways as they enter the campus beneath an iconic arch at the entryway.

I'm surprised more schools haven't caught on to this tradition, as it signifies a memorable and powerful event that bridges adolescence and adulthood, high school and college. Even though few other colleges or universities celebrate a march like Northwestern's, most campuses (including Washington University and St. Louis University) have prominent arches on buildings and walkways to signify the voyage of higher education. Arches are one of the most powerful architectural symbols mankind has designed to designate a gateway from one space into another.

Consider your typical wedding ceremony. Bride and groom stand before their families and each other, taking vows that can forever change their lives. It's one of the biggest milestones in most lives. And right there at the center of the ceremony is usually some kind of wedding arch. Wedding arches, usually decorated with flowers and ribbons, symbolize the transition from single life to marriage, and they are common in many cultures.

When you enter the grounds of Walt Disney World, a large arch covers the roadway, beckoning you into a different place where fun awaits. Busch Stadium also incorporates archways into its entrances. In fact, many tourist attractions try to set themselves apart with gateways that signify a transition from the outside world to their special space.

And for the ultimate transition, death, we see arches abounding in graveyards with tombstones that are not pure rectangles, but arched slabs of granite signifying the passing of the deceased into another realm.

Arches are rich with symbolism. They symbolize thresholds in time and space that act as a doorway. Passing through one signifies a transition from an old way of doing things into a new perspective. Some cultures see arches as symbols of beauty, dualism, protection, openness, or expansiveness. In any case, we need to appreciate the arches in our lives and their meaning.

Why do I bring all of this up? I do so because every year all of humanity goes through a gateway into another time known as New Year's Day. Many of us waste the significance of the day with partying and football. Of all 365 days, New Year's Day signifies a true gateway and opportunity for new beginnings. Sure, some of us make new year's resolutions, but unless they are taken with a true sense of transition, they are easily broken by the end of January.

Once every ten years we get to enter a new decade, one which could bring major changes to each of our lives. Beloved people will almost surely leave us during the next decade, and new ones will come into our lives. Jobs will change, as will homes, businesses and governments. There will be challenges and celebrations, much of which we can barely imagine as 2019 creeps to an end. This kind of transition deserves more recognition than a few noisemakers at midnight.

Luckily, in St. Louis we live near the most significant symbol of transition in the world- the Gateway Arch. Sure it was originally built as a Gateway to the West, but that holds little meaning today. Like any arch, it signifies whatever we want it to. I prefer to go by Mr. Humphrey's words and look at the Arch as a gateway to the future.

So on New Year's Day, 2020, I'm inviting folks to take a stroll through the Gateway Arch at noon to celebrate the transition into the new decade. New challenges and opportunities await us all, and I intend to meet them with my head held high, looking up at the Arch as it invites me into the future. You can walk around it, go underneath it to the great museum, or even go to the top if you like. But first you have to walk through it.

I will be leaving from the Stan Musial statue at Busch Stadium at noon and leisurely strolling while considering the new decade ahead. Don't let this opportunity go to waste- if you can't come downtown, find your own archway and think about where you've been and where you'd like to go. Writing it down makes it more powerful. Good luck to us all in the year ahead.

Here is the walk event page:

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