‘Abdu’l-Bahá Goes to Washington 1

This morning — Saturday, April 20, 1912 — ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had boarded the 8 a.m. train to Washington, DC, from New York’s Pennsylvania Station. But in order to avoid the kind of brouhaha that had greeted the Cedric, he had kept his arrival time a secret. That’s why Marzieh’s parents — Florence Breed of Boston and Ali-Kuli Khan of Iran — had received a panicked telephone call at lunchtime: “Hurry! The Master is arriving at the station in half an hour!” They dropped their knives and forks, picked up the children, and ran into the street to catch a public victoria.

The Khans arrived at Union Station with five minutes to spare: the train pulled in at 1:33 p.m. Mother rushed into the flower shop and bought two bouquets. Rahim 2, Marzieh’s elder brother, received violets; she got red roses. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá loved flowers.

Washington D. C. 3

Saturday night He spoke to the Persian-American Society, with six hundred people packed into a public library hall that normally seated four hundred. At least one hundred more standing outside took off their hats as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá approached. The audience in the auditorium rose to its feet as soon as He entered and stood until He bade them be seated. The next day the Washington Evening Star reported that “after he had spoken and when he was seated on the platform, hundreds pressed around him, seeking to grasp his hand.”

Included in the group were reporters who asked His opinions of the Titanic disaster. They reported that He said, “‘Both Americans and Europeans seem to be possessed of the mania for speed… It was a pitiful waste of life that came because of the effort to save a few hours in time—rushing a great vessel at top speed when it was known there was danger from ice.’” 4

 Talk at Orient-Occident-Unity Conference, Public Library Hall, Washington, D.C.

Briefly, I have traveled this long distance, crossed the Atlantic Ocean to this western continent in the desire and hope that the strongest bond of unity may be established between America and Persia. I know this to be your wish and purpose also and am sure of your cooperation. We shall, therefore, offer supplication in the divine threshold that a great love may take possession of the hearts of men and unite the nations of the world. We will pray that the ensign of international peace may be uplifted and that the oneness of the world of humanity may be realized and accomplished. All this is made possible and practicable through your efforts. May this American democracy be the first nation to establish the foundation of international agreement. May it be the first nation to proclaim the universality of mankind. May it be the first to upraise the standard of the Most Great Peace, and through this nation of democracy may these philanthropic intentions and institutions be spread broadcast throughout the world. Truly, this is a great and revered nation. Here liberty has reached its highest degree. The intentions of its people are most praiseworthy. They are, indeed, worthy of being the first to build the Tabernacle of the Most Great Peace and proclaim the oneness of mankind. I will supplicate God for assistance and confirmation in your behalf. 5

  1. Menon, Jonathan. “‘Abdu’l-Bahá Goes to Washington.” 239 Days in America, April 20, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/04/20/abdul-baha-comes-to-washington/. [return]
  2. Notes from Baha’i History. “‘Ali-Kuli Khan and Florence Meet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,” December 18, 2017. https://dailynotebahaihistory.blogspot.com/2017/12/ali-kuli-khan-and-florence-meet-abdul.html. [return]
  3. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 38. [return]
  4. Washington Evening Star, Apr. 21, 1912. [return]
  5. ʻAbduʼl-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 36-37. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/3#810048538. [return]