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National Press Club speech

Posted By Kyle Williams On 11/17/2001 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

Last Sunday, I flew to Washington, D.C., to speak at the National Press Club. This event marked the launch of Operation Enduring Patriotism. The bill being proposed – An Act for Enduring Patriotism – requires the teaching of the Bill of Rights, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, as well as observance of patriotic holidays in public schools. This bill is a state bill – the goal is for it to be proposed and passed in every state legislature. You can find more information on the sponsor’s website.

On Monday morning, I delivered the following speech:

Abraham Lincoln once reasoned, “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.” As one of the greatest presidents in American history, this quote rings truer now than ever. All the facts, lessons and values a child learns are carried throughout life.

It was their will for freedom that led 55 delegates from 12 of the 13 states to gather in Philadelphia, in the year of 1787, where they wrote the Constitution. They were some of the brightest people in America – and with their will for freedom and a new country in their minds, they spent five months framing that document. The Constitution was brought forth not to give the government power, but to restrict the government. This is one of the most important parts about understanding the Constitution: The people must keep the government from taking their liberties.

How can we do that? By understanding its foundation.

The Preamble of the United States Constitution begins with, “WE THE PEOPLE.” This country’s foundation is in the Constitution, and those words mean it is the peoples’ duty to govern the country through their elected officials. All the freedoms Americans enjoy are what people prayed, hoped, fought and died for throughout the history of mankind, and people still do that around the world even today.

It is our responsibility to take care of our freedoms and make sure they are not perverted or destroyed. For example, as the country embarks on a new war against global and domestic terrorism, some of our rights have been restricted; we need to watch this very closely.

These historic documents – the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and Constitution – are what all the government stems from and stands for. The Constitution defines the laws and structure of the government. The Bill of Rights shows what rights we, as U.S. citizens, are entitled to. And the Declaration of Independence describes what difficulties we went through under another nation, and why we declared ourselves to be a new nation.

So for most Americans to know this, we have to go further than “flag deep” if we are to protect our liberties and freedoms. How can we teach the nation these historic documents? We have to go through the public-school system and teach this.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stated, “Like the Bible, it (the Constitution) ought to be read again and again.” He, too, was one of the great presidents in history. These words are exactly what needs to be done in schools. The Constitution ought to be taught, but not just one time. It needs to be taught repeatedly, so children will retain that knowledge.

James Madison, in Federalist Paper number 51, wrote, “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.” This quote is one of the best explanations of the government, through the Constitution, and brings us back to the people. The people run the government and the people ought to know and study the Constitution and Bill of Rights to run the government responsibly.

The importance of understanding the foundation of the United States is vital for our freedoms, especially for the ordinary citizen and in our courts. Don’t you believe a country’s citizens ought to know what their country is all about? I do.

As we watch our young armed servicemen deployed overseas to defend our freedom, our first reaction is pride. However, do all those brave servicemen know exactly what they’re fighting for? “Sure,” most will say, “freedom.” But is that all? Do most of them know exactly what they’re fighting for in the Constitution and Bill of Rights? Probably not. Why? Because there is no in-depth study of these historic documents in our public schools.

Less than 50 percent of all Americans vote. That is an extremely low number and very sad. What can we do to bring more people to the ballot? I believe by teaching them the Constitution and Bill of Rights, people will be more aware of what’s at stake.

Also, one of the things we can make a mistake about is thinking the Constitution and Bill of Rights won’t be perverted. Don’t think for one second that it can’t happen. It can and it will, if people don’t know what’s at stake. The United States has progressed rapidly, compared to the history of other nations that have been much longer than us, but don’t think we can’t fall and lose our position.

We, as a nation, have grown lax and have begun to believe that nothing can change our way of life. Since the terrorist attacks, things have been put more in perspective. However, not just in perspective to our safety and lives, but our priorities. This country can fall to terrorists, if nothing is done, but also internally by the deterioration of our foundation.

Around the country, there has been a huge patriotic spirit. Again, patriotism is not just buying a flag from Wal-Mart, but understanding the country and fighting for what is good and right and just. Patriotism is knowing and seeing what’s at stake and rising to the challenge for the good of the country.

This issue is something I feel very passionate about. We have to go back to the beginning. We have to re-think our priorities and define what has made us a beacon of light to people around the world.

If I hear of a politician speaking of changing the Bill of Rights or the Constitution, I recoil. When a person talks of restricting our rights “for the better,” it will always be for the worst. When anyone wants to diminish our rights, the vision the Declaration of Independence promised – “… life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” – will slowly but surely be taken away.

The bill being proposed through Operation Enduring Patriotism is a good thing. It’s not some federal-education law imposed upon the citizens, but it is a state bill which addresses education in the state constitution. This will help make our country a better place to live and surely is something all senators and representatives should support.

Most kids go to school from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. each day, and with the help of teachers they can learn this. They can and they will. To help preserve our nation, we must support this bill. We have nothing to lose, but a lot to gain.

The importance of this is extreme, and there is a lot at stake here. We haven’t gone through all the wars, pain, praying, dying and hoping, for nothing. We haven’t gotten this far just to forget what our country is all about. This country is the greatest in the entire world. It promises life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That is something billions of people don’t have around the world. This country is too great for us to lose our foundation.

Many of you have heard this story: When exiting the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was approached by a group of citizens who asked what government the delegates had created. He answered, simply, “A republic, if you can keep it.” I believe we can keep it, but we must go back to the Constitution and relearn what has made us great. Our Constitutional Republic cannot survive unless each generation is schooled in the fundamental principles upon which our system of governance was established.

In President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Nov. 19, 1863, he said, “… these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Our country is of the people, by the people and for the people. So the people must know what their country is all about! In order to keep this country great, we need to go back to what made us great. So we must fight for this bill, “An Act for Enduring Patriotism,” in each and every state in our nation.


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