From Caterpillars to Butterflies - the Progress of NCCS
Sixteen years ago, Dr. W. Cleon Skousen gave a progress report on the mission of NCCS since its inception in 1971. He outlined the struggles and the successes as well as the lessons learned by this organization with such a unique mission. Perhaps I can give an update to his report as we are now in our 40 th year.
The 1960s - a decade of radical change
Who can doubt that the 1960s was a decade of radical change? Fueled by an unpopular war and civil unrest, Americans saw unprecedented change in our culture and in our politics. The changes were so alarming that some political and religious leaders issued stern warnings that if America did not return to its roots, the American dream would be lost. The bigger problem was that the American dream could really not be defined anymore by many Americans. It was not being taught in our schools and hadn't been for decades. It was not even taught in law schools of the country. Lawyers studying Constitutional Law were given a thick book entitled Constitutional Law, but soon saw that it contained mostly case law set in precedent by Supreme Court edicts. It had very little to do with the original Constitution at all! Politicians were proposing answers to major problems, but they seemed to only get worse. Concerned Americans knew that the only way to overcome these deeply destructive problems was to return to the Founders' success formula for freedom, prosperity, and peace.
Who will search out the Founders' message from hundreds of books?
The task was nearly overwhelming. Dr. Skousen described it as a process of going from a caterpillar to a butterfly:
"Every successful organization goes through three stages.
"I like to call the first stage the caterpillar stage. The founders of the organization have a strong feeling that some great project must be undertaken. They set out to do it, but only a few friends catch the vision. Support is scattered, scanty, and skittish. Therefore the organization crawls along slowly. Nevertheless, it somehow survives, and eventually some great things begin to be accomplished.
"The second stage is the cocoon stage. The founders suddenly discover that their limited success has opened some marvelous opportunities that are beyond their wildest expectations. The problem is how to respond. It becomes necessary to step back, go into seclusion, and decide how this can be accomplished. It is a time of serious reflection and complete new goal setting. This is the cocoon stage.
"The third stage is the butterfly stage. Suddenly there emerges before the public view a magnificent new organization that just seems to have come out of nowhere. People wonder how it could have happened so unexpectedly and achieve success so spontaneously.
"They don't know about the caterpillar and the cocoon stages. They just marvel at the beautiful new butterfly.
"This advancement through three stages of struggle has happened to every major industry, every successful business, and every great university and it has happened to NCCS."
Principles learned from hard experience
While the NCCS is not associated with any political or religious organization, we have learned that some of the same principles apply. For example, we have learned that as soon as someone gets to feeling that teaching the Founders freedom formula can be a job, an occupation, a way to support a family, or a way to make a lot of money, progress begins to falter. We have learned from experience that freedom is a cause. It is a cause for all Americans and as soon as someone begins to do it for money, somehow it ceases to be a cause and support for it deteriorates. Dr. Skousen devoted much of his own resources to the cause without any expectation of getting it back. He said:
"You might also be interested in knowing that I and the members of the Board of Directors of the NCCS receive no compensation for the work we do. We provide for ourselves by other means, and serve in this cause simply because we, like you, love America and intend to preserve the heritage which made America the first free people in modern times."
Dr. Skousen knew the work to restore freedom could not depend on someone making money but rather, like the Founders, it would require a sacrifice of our every effort and even our means. He told me many times, "You use our material any way you can to get the word out, with or without my name." And he never worried about who would get the credit.
"Give me this mountain"
With the passing of years, Dr. Skousen knew the responsibility of coordinating this gigantic effort had to be passed on to others, and so he did that. But the organization began to struggle again and some wondered if it would even survive. At this juncture some of those who had sacrificed for years to help prepare our books and study courses stepped forward to save the organization from the brink of destruction and quickly became the leading advocates to preserve the NCCS and allow it to fulfill its mission to bring America back to its founding principles. It was like Caleb of old saying, "Give me this mountain." Dr. Skousen repeatedly thanked those people who undertook the task of preserving and rebuilding the NCCS so that the goal of educating the Nation by making popular that which is sound could continue.
The Founders Message is shining like the brilliant colors of a Butterfly
Here are some examples of what is happening:
Two years ago we were wondering how we could reach the goal of distributing one million copies of the Constitution. That is a huge number. Last Spring we took a leap of faith and had printed five million copies of our "Pocket Constitution", with the Declaration of Independence and quotes from George Washington and other Founders about its importance. As a matter of fact, Washington is on the front holding out a pen as if to invite the possessor of the booklet to take an oath to uphold this precious document. Over the last two years groups of all kinds have been ordering these by the tens of thousands. The Florida State Supreme Court ordered 85,000 copies. Political parties, tea party groups, candidates for public office, schools, churches, universities, family reunions, and other groups have ordered these by the hundreds of thousands. This document has literally been revived again by concerned Americans. Would you believe we are working on distributing our third million this year!
Several years ago Congress passed a law requiring the teaching of the Constitution in schools during Constitution Week in September. We were flooded with phone calls from teachers asking us if we had anything they could use. A generous donor made it possible to mail a copy of A More Perfect Union DVD to every school in the nation! That was over 100,000 in number. We estimate that since then we have been able, through various means, to get 200,000 additional copies into our public schools with the possibility of over 60 million school students having had the opportunity to view it and to get better acquainted with our Founding Fathers and the Constitutional Convention that gave us our Constitution.
A major contribution to the freedom effort has been the compiling of three major works on the lives of three of the Founders, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin. The unique approach is that we let these men tell their own story in their own words. A whole new appreciation of the Founders is being gained by Americans as they read these stories and testimonies of the cause of freedom.
Since the inception of NCCS in 1971, the number of live seminars we have taught each year varied from one to three dozen. Last year we taught 87 such seminars. This year we will more than double that number. During the month of September alone we taught 24 Making of America "all-day" seminars from one end of this nation to the other. And if you go to our website you can see the calendar of the many seminars we are teaching in multiple places in this nation every single Saturday. Our study guide for these one-day seminars has been newly updated with many more graphics and an easy to follow format. A DVD is being released shortly which will take a student through this new study guide in a most exciting manner. About fifteen people now help us teach these live seminars, all on a volunteer basis. Each of these teachers has his own means of support and each of them does this because of the cause and not for a job. It all seems to work better that way.
We have also put this message into multi-media formats so that technology can be used to spread the Founders formula for freedom. A significant milestone has been the development of two semester long courses complete with lessons, quizzes, and examinations which teachers can immediately use to teach these wonderful principles to young people. One course teaches where the Founders got their good ideas leading to their famous principles of liberty and the other course takes a student through the Constitution phrase by phrase and shows the meaning and principle basis for each phrase. Homeschooling families, private schools, charter schools, and some smaller district schools are now using this material. Our courses are even available online and can be accessed for a small fee for those wishing to receive high school credit or at no cost for those who wish to take the course as guests. As a teacher of high school students, I can say there is no more thrilling feeling than to see a young person light up with the true principles of freedom and gradually develop a burning desire to restore these sound doctrines.
"Its sounder parts will recall it to original and legitimate principles"
It is Thomas Jefferson who explained what the people should do when the government begins to deteriorate. Said he:
".when the government of its [the people's] choice shall manifest a tendency to degeneracy, we are not at once to despair, but that the will and the watchfulness of its sounder parts will reform its aberrations, recall it to original and legitimate principles, and restrain it within the rightful limits of self-government."
That is the mission of NCCS.
Of course, there are always those who want to stop us from doing this. Some think it's the wrong message, some think more money should be made from the sale of our material, and there are those who want to make a job out of it and turn it into a business. But these have all shown to be failure formulas for such an important cause as freedom and we are determined to move forward with confidence in the same Being who inspired the Founders in the first place.
Thanks for you wonderful support of the cause of liberty,
Earl Taylor, Jr.