It started as a challenge and ended as a triumph.
This week marked the culmination of a project our homeschooled girls have been working on for three months: memorizing, start to finish, the entire Declaration of Independence.
Remember your Laura Ingalls Wilder books? While attending an Independence Day celebration in 1881 when Laura was 15 and her sister Carrie was 12, they listened to a townsman read the Declaration out loud to the crowd. The book says, “Laura and Carrie knew the Declaration by heart, of course, but it gave them a solemn, glorious feeling to hear the words.”
It was the casual “of course” in that line that always caught my attention. Of course these kids knew the Declaration by heart. It was just taken for granted. No big deal. Everyone had it memorized. It was just an ordinary part of one’s education. No one was ignorant of their rights.
How many people have this document memorized today? Not only is the number likely to be in the mere hundreds (if not mere dozens), but thanks to the liberal de-emphasis of our unique history in public schools, a vast majority of people in this nation haven’t even read it … and that probably includes most of our politicians.
(Just an observation: Most people who have the Declaration memorized are likely to be either elderly or homeschooled. Why do you suppose that is?)
When Thomas Jefferson crafted the Declaration, it, too, was a challenge … and a triumph. Up to that point in history, people had been accustomed to the divine right of kings: the notion that a ruler was a ruler because God had put him there. Therefore, the ruler was to be obeyed as one should obey God. He was not subject to the will of his people, and of course he did not have to obey laws the common man must follow. What often resulted, of course, was tyranny.
That’s why the idea of putting the people in charge, and relegating rulers to the position of mere servants was novel to the point of astounding. The prevailing attitude in most countries was that the peasants were stupid and shouldn’t have the right to say how their lives should be determined, much less dictate how a nation should be run. Our Founding Fathers broke that mold with a vengeance and put the ordinary man in charge of his own destiny, constrained only by a streamlined and minimalist federal government.
The next 200 years proved just how correct Mr. Jefferson and his brilliant cohorts were. Freed from tyranny, granted their rights by God and not by governments (what a concept!), America flourished as no other country ever has. We became a place of such pulsing vitality and growth, of such optimism and freedom, of such potential and possibilities, that its equal has not been seen in the entire history of the planet. We made mistakes, of course, but we tried our best to correct them. Unchained from the oppression of rulers, we leaped ahead 5,000 years, often pulling other countries forward in our wake.
America became a shining beacon to millions of oppressed peoples across the planet, including my grandparents and great-grandparents, my three foreign-born sisters-in-law, and innumerable friends and coworkers. All came to this country for one primary reason: to live their lives free from the domination and subjugation of cruel governments.
Sadly, these unique freedoms are disdained by many. There are always those who long for power over others, who believe the common man (which never includes themselves) is too stupid to determine his own destiny, and who believe our God-given freedoms should be shackled with tyrannical restraints. We are now systematically destroying the very principles and limitations that made our nation great. We are becoming a place where honest patriots are redefined as domestic terrorists; where you are targeted for sporting the wrong bumper sticker; where predator drones are used for “interior law enforcement”; where selling raw milk to willing customers results in armed SWAT raids; where people are encouraged to exchange their personal responsibility for the slavery of welfare dependency; and where even our choice of light bulbs is decided for us.
Does this sound like what Jefferson had in mind when he crafted the Declaration? Of course not. And if you read that list of usurpations about George III, it becomes increasingly apparent how many violations apply to our current régime.
Anyway, back to the challenge. Like any good homeschooling parent I want my kids to be better educated than me. That’s how the challenge began. Our girls would learn the Declaration of Independence word for word. I wrote about the inception of this project on my blog.
Well, they did it. This week they recited the Declaration several times in front of a camera. The video is embedded in this column.
An additional video is posted on my blog.
What you see in this video are two young women who won’t ever be hoodwinked by unconstitutional government promises. They will never be gullibly fooled into thinking that relinquishing their rights will make them “safe.” As our older daughter commented, “I’ll admit, after saying a line 500 times you really start to understand it.”
“A nation of well informed men,” wrote Benjamin Franklin, “who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved. It is in the region of ignorance that tyranny begins.” [Emphasis added.]
We don’t know what our future will bring for this country. I don’t know what will happen when our girls are grown up. But I do know that by memorizing this immortal document, it can never be taken away from them. Our government can betray us all it wants; it can continue to dumb down generations of children in public schools; it can pretend our rights come from government and not from God. But because our kids know the words of the Declaration by heart, they will never be ignorant of the possibility and consequences of tyranny. They will recognize what is being taken away by progressive rulers and their lapdogs who long to restore the divine right of kings.
We’re proud of our girls for taking seriously this challenge to learn a seminal part of their heritage. Next up: the Constitution and Bill of Rights.