How Can I Help America in 2002?
As a teacher of American History I have always been a little disappointed not to find early Americans enjoying major celebrations at Christmas time. In all the records I have searched I have found only occasional reference to a Christmas dinner or family visits, but none of the elaborate Christmas pageants or commercial activities we see today. Actually, the Christmas season only took on a more celebratory note when the immigrants brought such ideas from Europe beginning in the 1800s. Most of the early records are contained in Revolutionary War records and diaries and casually refer to this battle or that skirmish happening on or around Christmas day.
Such was the occasion 225 years ago when Washington and his army had been driven out of New York. He marched his men south across New Jersey and didn't stop until they crossed the Delaware River. His troops were not only demoralized, hungry, and ill-equipped, but most of them would soon be leaving. Dr. Skousen describes what Washington did next:
"On December 23 Washington formed his bedraggled Americans into ranks and had them listen to a stirring message written by Thomas Paine. It included the famous words which have been recited by Americans from that day to this:
'These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.'
"It usually takes more than mere words to arouse and inspire beaten soldiers, but these lines of Thomas Paine somehow had their impact on Washington's shivering, hungry, threadbare patriots. A sense of renewed commitment and sacred mission returned to their souls. Two nights later they crossed the Delaware. The weather was so cold two of them froze to death. Nevertheless, they caught the British mercenaries completely off guard in a groggy hangover the morning after Christmas day. In a brilliant flourish of organized fury, Washington captured the whole British contingent of a thousand Hessians without a single American being killed. Two were wounded, including James Monroe, who later became President of the United States."
What Kind of a Soldier and Patriot Will I Be?
I remember reading those words of Thomas Paine years ago and thinking that I do not want to be a mere summer soldier or a sunshine patriot. That decision has lead me and my family to participate in some pretty exciting undertakings over the last 30 years, most of which have not been very popular but all of which have given us the satisfaction that we were doing the right thing.
Now we are facing a New Year with seemingly bigger challenges in America. We have experienced a relatively prosperous and peaceful Christmas season. Over the past many months we have recited the counsel of the Founders as to what is necessary for us to maintain the system of government they gave us. May we discuss specific things that each American can do in 2002 to make for a better America and to spread the good news of freedom across the land? Some of these are very time consuming; others are not. Some will present as much of a challenge as a person may think he is capable of, others may be done rather simply and easily. There is work enough for anyone to do no matter what his situation in life may be. But every American can do something in relation to the preservation of our American system. Here are nine suggestions for your New Year's consideration:
- Read and discuss the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in your family. No matter what the level of understanding may be, this can be an extremely rewarding family activity. There are no better discussions around the dinner table than relating good principles of government to what is happening daily. It is a way of bringing family members together in a meaningful way. I have found that when parents relate to their children with principles of freedom, other areas of family life seem to go better. NCCS has study tools to help. Stories and coloring for the younger ones, or study questions and outlines for the older ones.
- Get to know your public officials. Most public officials really want to do what is right. The problem is they think the right thing to do is what they hear people say. If the wrong people have their ear, then decisions are made based on false information. Good public officials will tell you they are lonely many times in making decisions. They wish to hear from people other than the paid lobbyists who hover around these decision-making bodies. Let them know who you are and that you are sincerely interested in the decisions they make. Congratulate them when making proper decisions and gently remind them of mistakes when they make wrong decisions. They really do want to hear from you - and more than just an email.
- Volunteer to work on your city's Constitution Week celebration committee. NCCS has plenty of material and suggestions for you to take to your mayor in order to have a Proclamation ready to be signed several weeks before September 17th. Schools, churches, service clubs, patriotic organizations can all be rallied in a spirit of Americanism to put on a meaningful, annual celebration. In my city of Mesa, Arizona (population 450,000) we have had an official City of Mesa Constitution Week Celebration Committee now for almost 30 years. Each year they stage marvelous celebrations and productions with hundreds of citizens involved.
- Become involved in the political process. This can be as simple as running for Precinct Committeeman. Most of the time these positions remain unfilled. These are actually party positions. One of the best ways to become involved gradually is to become active in your political party. There are regular meetings to attend which are very informative. Public officials give regular reports at these functions and you will be kept up-to-date on the latest issues and candidates. As you become known in political circles and learn the system, you will know when the time is right for you to perhaps run for office. Most people in the parties want to support someone who has been involved and "paid his dues" first. Political Parties do not represent the best choice of the Founders in good government, but our system today has given them legal standing and we are usually bound to work through them today if we want to have an influence.
- Be a constant source of influence and information in schools, libraries, and churches. Our NCCS catalog is filled with quality books, tapes, pamphlets, artwork, and other helps which can be given periodically to interested people in these organizations. Our website is attracting hundreds of new people who have expressed delight at finally finding a reliable source of information on good government. Our monthly newsletter may be had by email now and hundreds of new families are signing up to receive it. Others continue to get it by regular mail.
- Give a Freedom Gallery to a local school, business, church, or public building. The Freedom Gallery is made up of seventeen documents and paintings with tremendous historical significance to Americans. The permanent display covers a sixteen feet by four feet wall space and each piece is protected by a poly-carbonate cover for lasting beauty. One high school teacher writes: "Your Freedom Gallery is one of the greatest things I've seen to teach needed lessons from our great national history. I've watched dozens of students stop and study the gallery and learn from the great art and history that is depicted in the prints on display. I've visited with teachers who plan on making the gallery part of their curriculum." Efforts from an organized local committee can make the Freedom Gallery a part of any public building.
- Host a Making of America seminar. If you've ever wanted a way to "charge up" your community, here is the answer. An all-day Saturday seminar will leave participants in amazement as the story of America is opened to them in a way the Founders would do it if they were here. Developed by Dr. Skousen over many years of teaching, this seminar forms the backbone of NCCS efforts. It has prepared citizens to run for public office; it has answered many questions concerning local and national issues; it has launched on-going study classes in the community; it has been a source of strength for citizens wishing to have the knowledge and courage to become involved in political affairs. Most of us owe our beginnings in the freedom effort to our attendance at such a seminar. If you have ever wondered what you could do in your area, this is the kickoff that your friends will thank you for forever. Complete outlines of suggestions are available from NCCS on how to get started.
- Begin an Evening a Month for America class. This is best done as a way to keep the study going and the enthusiasm high after attending the Making of America seminar. Every American should be able to give one evening a month for the study of principles of good government. The Evening a Month outline contains study questions for the methodical study of The Five Thousand Year Leap and The Making of America. These two books are a must for any citizen wishing to be grounded in the proper role of government. The once-a-month format provides time to have guest speakers or video presentations to add variety to the 31-month study class. Local office holders love to respond to such invites to explain their positions on local issues.
- Support NCCS. As you can see, NCCS is active in continuing to educate Americans. We are excited for the increased interest shown in the efforts of The National Center for Constitutional Studies and our message. As we have said before, Dr. Skousen spent many years packaging the message of the Founders and now it is our responsibility to spread the message of freedom throughout all the land. Of course, this takes financial resources to continue to do this. There remains no paid staff at NCCS, however, many thousands of hours are donated annually to make this effort succeed. Volunteer organizations usually have short life spans, but NCCS seems to be weathering each storm. It is a testimony to the truthfulness and worthwhileness of the message. It still takes large sums of money to print or reprint books and brochures and produce other teaching aids. Some people can't or choose not to do any of the activities in this letter, but are able to contribute something financially so that others can carry on the work outlined above. Your regular donations are most sincerely appreciated.
The Lord seems to have blessed America with a continuing era of peace and prosperity even in light of the disasters of last year. Perhaps 2002 is the year to return thanks to Him by showing we are not merely "summer soldiers and sunshine patriots."
Happy New Year!
Earl Taylor, Jr.