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The Left has been relentless in its efforts to distort, remove and delegitimize the history of our country. The damage to our children and to our nation is incalculable. But I realized that losing our history for future generations is much more than removing the tales of battles, founding documents, and the contributions of our Founders.
We are losing our stories and the significant role they can play in our personal lives.
When we study our history, we learn so much more than facts and figures. When we look at the Founders, we learn not only about George Washington’s bravery, but also his modesty, even his insecurity, about his lack of formal education. We come to understand the enormous barriers that Abraham Lincoln encountered that he was prepared to overcome through his commitment to his own education and accomplishments, his bouts with depression, and living with a troubled wife. Ulysses S. Grant was not only a great general, but he suffered greatly in his witnessing of those who died on both sides of the war, the Union and the South.
History is not just made of events: it is a reflection of the men and women who were exceptional and flawed human beings, people who became famous and sometimes infamous through the lives they lived. More than those truths, each of us has the opportunity to put ourselves in the shoes of these people, during the times when they lived, with all the limitations they had to suffer.
What was it like to be Abigail Adams who had to maintain the farm while John Adams was away serving this country? How well would we endure the choices men had to make to join the Union or Confederate Armies, tearing families apart?
People attack the history of the United States, insisting on focusing on our poor choices and refusing to appreciate the unique efforts to create a democratic republic, the only one on the face of the earth; this is a bigoted, deceitful, hateful, and destructive effort that hurts the very country that was established and that allows them to pursue their efforts. They don’t understand that valid history education doesn’t try to deify its Founders but demonstrate how they rose above their limitations. They don’t realize that the accomplishments of the leaders of the past were laudable because of all the barriers they encountered and overcame, personal and professional.
Each of us has a chance to identify with the efforts and attributes of these people. We can try to imagine riding for days through snowstorms on a horse to attend a meeting of Congress. We can imagine the work of Frederick Douglass, who escaped slavery and became a symbol of black freedom. These people, flawed and ambitious, are role models to all of us and connect us to U.S. history in an intimate and intriguing way.
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I was reminded recently of a very poignant and powerful exchange that mattered to me. George Washington had sent a letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport Rhode, Island. His letter included these touching words:
May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.
I had somehow missed the fact that the congregation had sent a letter first to the President, with these words of gratitude and prayer:
Deprived as we heretofore have been of the invaluable rights of free Citizens, we now with a deep sense of gratitude to the Almighty disposer of all events behold a Government, erected by the Majesty of the People — a Government, which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance — but generously affording to all Liberty of conscience, and immunities of Citizenship: — deeming every one, of whatever Nation, tongue, or language equal parts of the great governmental Machine: — This so ample and extensive Federal Union whose basis is Philanthropy, Mutual confidence and Public Virtue, we cannot but acknowledge to be the work of the Great God, who ruleth in the Armies of Heaven, and among the Inhabitants of the Earth, doing whatever seemeth him good.
For all these Blessings of civil and religious liberty which we enjoy under an equal benign administration, we desire to send up our thanks to the Ancient of Days, the great preserver of Men — beseeching him, that the Angel who conducted our forefathers through the wilderness into the promised Land, may graciously conduct you through all the difficulties and dangers of this mortal life: — And, when, like Joshua full of days and full of honour, you are gathered to your Fathers, may you be admitted into the Heavenly Paradise to partake of the water of life, and the tree of immortality.
As a Jew, an American citizen, and a lover of history, I identify with and appreciate this gracious exchange.
Finally, there is this observation by the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks:
G-d never commanded us: Thou shall win a Nobel Prize. What he wanted us to teach our children was a story. He wanted us to help our children understand who they are, where they came from, what happened to their ancestors to make them the distinctive people they became, and what moments in their history shaped their lives and dreams.
Although Rabbi Sacks was addressing the Jewish people, I believe his words apply to all humanity.
May we all live to see the restoration of our remarkable history and its leaders.Published in