I am returned from a week-long visit to our nation’s halls of history with about 20 of my students. We spent most of our time in Washington D.C. and its surrounding sites, but we made a quick stopover in the City of Brotherly Love as well. While the trip was a journey in many respects, the lure of history and learning has not lost its power over me. I could not help but soak in the past and apply it to my present. I spent much time listening, observing, pondering and reflecting. I’d like to share a few of my reflections with you.
One theme that resonated with me was legacy. Our founding fathers left a legacy inscribed in stone and the annals of time. They took time to invest in the future – not for their own selfish gain, but because they were strongly convicted that there was more to tomorrow than themselves. This is something that is missing in our current society. Few are willing to invest their time in those around them, much less the generations that are not yet even born. Ours is a self-absorbed society and the price we will pay for this egocentrism will be much higher than what our founding fathers encountered, and for a pitiful cause.
Learning was another theme that I encountered. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, John Q. Adams, just to name a few, were men who embraced education. They stand in the company of great men who made history because they recognized the value of education. They read and wrote and studied and argued and listened and elocuted with passion, and in doing so they expanded their minds and the minds of others. Their investment into learning founded a great country and changed the world for hundreds of years. Many of these great men were self-taught, an indicator of self-discipline and a hungry mind. Again, appreciation for education is fading in our present American society and this is a travesty. At a time when we need to master the game and be on the cutting edge of progress, we are falling behind and becoming followers. Why? Perhaps it is because we have our lost our motivation to succeed. Perhaps it is because we are too lazy to improve. An untrained mind is another man’s slave. We must beware.
Finally, liberty rang loud and clear as I gazed at the Washington Monument, wrapped my sights around the Rotunda, made eye contact with Abraham Lincoln, and read the inscription on the Liberty Bell. Liberty is engraved in our hearts. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free from the power of sin, and it is for liberty that hundreds of thousands have died. Can we even comprehend the full value of liberty? I think not. If so, we would be more staunch defenders of it. “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” is inscribed on the outside columns of the National Archives. We are not being vigilant when we lay down our arms to negotiate with terrorists. We are not being vigilant when we excuse the American genocide of our unborn citizens. We are not being vigilant when we do not groom our students for excellence in academics and character. We are not being vigilant when we erase God from our national consciousness.
As I journeyed home, I mused upon the themes that I had gleaned from this trip. I juxtaposed my 6th, 7th, and 8th graders with those who had founded America. I imagined them brushing shoulders with one another in the halls, between the stone pillars, and along the cobblestone streets. I envisioned the batons of legacy, learning and liberty being passed from the hands of history into the hands of the present. Is there a connection? A firm grasp to ensure that the batons do not slip into the gaps of time? I can’t say. Many of those hands are too busy texting. Others are sitting idly by, indifferent to the whispers of the greats. Some are too distracted by the opinions of their peers to even notice that the responsibility of tomorrow rests upon them. Most are only seeking fun and little from yesterday could be described as that.
But there are a few…a precious few…who are reaching through time, grasping the batons, and clasping the hands of those who read and wrote and studied and argued and listened and elocuted with passion. In doing so they will expand their minds and the minds of others. I will stand with them. What about you?