By WILLIAM J. KELLY
The survival of our constitution, the greatest and best political document ever written by man, and therefore our country, depends more and more on our knowledge of the founding of our nation.
I am not a history scholar. In fact I was not interested in history during my school days. I thought, what do I care about the Monroe doctrine, the second amendment and all those events and dates I had to memorize about past times? I don’t need to know those things. Why was that my attitude toward learning the history of my country? I suspect a lot of other students had the same thought.
I do not think I was properly prepared for the importance of history in my future life. I doubt if most of the students of those days were so prepared. Perhaps a preface to all history studies should be a lecture, especially in grade school American history, about the importance and value of knowing about our nations beginning. This should be about why we are a free people, the men who brought it about and many examples of how they succeeded in their efforts. This should be a recurring event, year after year, so that it instills in the students a real reason for learning history, a giant step for their future patriotism.
We, the parent, the voters, also have an obligation to talk to our children to ascertain what they are being taught in school. If something is being taught, that to our understanding is incorrect, we have the obligation to investigate it and then bring it to the attention of the school authorities.
Our first president, George Washington, in his farewell address left we the people a lot of good advice, much of which applies to the actions of our present federal government. Here are some quotes:
Quote 1 – “It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration to confine themselves within there respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism.”
Quote 2 – “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports, in vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them.”
Quote 3 – “Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
Quote 4 – “There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate on real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.”
I think of my 92 years of freedom, the errors and successes I freely made, the religious freedom I enjoyed, the friends of every religious persuasion or political party and as a member of what Tom Brokaw labeled “the greatest generation,” and realize it happened because of the actions of a few great men years ago. I hope and pray my children and their children will enjoy these same freedoms.
When I think of these great men, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry and many others who all had strong, passionate opinions of how our government should be formed but who subordinated their opinions to bring about a document – our constitution – that would benefit all the American people, it sends shivers up and down my spine.
President George Washington’s farewell address is actually a magnificent tutor on how all leaders should conduct themselves in office. Read it. It’s almost as if he could see the future. The electors chose the ideal man to be our first president, the father of our country as he is known.
William J. Kelly is a Weatherford resident and frequent contributor to Viewpoints.