American History, Traditions and Values
Jay discusses the importance of passing on our American history, traditions and values to the next generation.
One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a deep understanding, appreciation and respect for America. For our history, for our traditions and for our founding values. It’s so easy for many of us to take this process for granted. Yet, the teaching of these lessons is so vital, precisely because freedom is so very fragile. Perhaps Ronald Reagan said it best when he warned Americans that:
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
As a student growing up in Newport, one of my favorite subjects in school was history. The complexity of it all fascinated me, everything from the evolution of religions, to the ancient Greeks and the Romans, and especially the establishment and development of our beloved country. Learning history catalyzed my interests as I pursued higher education and ultimately guided me as I started my professional life. It gave me the foundations for my understanding of the world, a respect for those who came before me, and a knowledge that would help my critical thinking. To this day, I still consider myself a student of history, namely because as the saying goes, those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.
And, unfortunately, today Americans – especially young Americans – are becoming less and less familiar with our nation’s history. Over the past 40 years, test scores at schools in the areas of history, geography, and civics have continued to decline. For instance, in a recent survey of high school seniors across the country, only 13 percent of those tested showed a proficiency in American history. Whether it is knowing why 1776 was such an important date? Or even knowing who we fought to secure our independence in the Revolutionary War? These are questions that baffle increasingly large numbers of Americans.
But truly, why is learning history so important? In essence, the teaching of history engenders a curiosity for knowledge, both past and present, which ultimately give us the foundations for taking action like voting and building the foundation for our civic engagement. It gives us what we need to be active citizens.
The suggestion could be made that there is a direct correlation between the decline in our understanding of history and the dysfunction we often see in our democracy today. It’s a real-world argument not just for the continued teaching of history, but for making it a more significant focus of current educational curriculum. Last week, I spoke about the need for civility in our discourse. Civility is often derived from an understanding for a shared history, that no matter what, at the end of the day, we’re all Americans. And not just that, we’re Americans often with the same pursuits, purposes and values as those with whom we may disagree. And by continuing to teach, understand, and promote our shared history, the triumphs and the tragedies, we can recognize that truth, and begin once again finding the common ground we so urgently need.
The Newport Times – Positive News in the Sunshine Town!
Exciting news in the Sunshine Town. The Newport Times is hot off the press. Newport has a wonderful new source for news and an exciting vehicle for building community spirit!
For decades, the Argus Champion newspaper was a staple in the Newport/Sunapee/New London area, both online and in a weekly print edition. The paper covered the news that larger newspapers did not, such as local 4-H events or shows at the Newport Opera House. An event or story was not covered fully until Archie Mountain, the paper’s local reporter, showed up with his camera and notepad. Generations of families have collections of photos clipped from the paper of their children’s school awards and sports events. Unfortunately, the paper which had battled the headwinds of the print news business for many years, finally fell victim to the pandemic, ending all publications in March 2020, leaving a large hole in the coverage of local, personal, and uplifting news.
Thankfully, late last year, members of the community along with those involved in the Sunshine Initiative met to revive our local newspaper tradition. And, an exciting new effort was born – a new community communication called the ‘Newport Times.’ With the generous backing of community leader Roy Malool, inspiration from Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg, editing by Christine Benner and the efforts of numerous volunteers contributing articles – on topics ranging from new recipes at the Old Courthouse Restaurant, to profiles of new officers hired by the police department, to happenings at the recently renovated Newport Opera House – the Newport Times is a 28 page, hard copy, glossy publication that emphasizes GOOD NEWS! Focusing on positive stories – of which there are so very many in this wonderful small-town community – the paper has now been made available. It is a free bi-monthly publication, mailed out to all residents and businesses in Newport, as well as available at convenient locations around town.
Meanwhile, in parallel, the Sunshine Initiative is leading an effort to develop an online version of the Newport Times – which can now be found at: www.newporttimes.org While it is active now and contains a number of interesting news stories, we expect major upgrades and improvements to this online version in coming weeks and months. The Sunshine Initiative is working with volunteers and committed members of the community to develop a ‘best in class’ online news site – always up to date and with the uniquely personal touch that will make this local news sources popular and cherished for many generations.
Congratulations to all involved in the creation and successful launch of the Newport Times!
The American Heritage Museum – Honoring American Sacrifice
Operation Overlord, the official name of the invasion of Normandy, was the three-month assault by Allied Forces to take back Europe. D-Day, the start of the invasion, involved thousands of military ships, over 1,000 airplanes and just over 150,000 Allied troops taking the beach in Normandy. It was and still is the largest amphibious assault ever. It truly was the turning point in World War II on the European front and paved the way for freedom to overcome fascist rule and oppression.
The three-month operation included thirteen allied nations, five commanders including General Dwight D. Eisenhower, two million allied forces, and nearly 125,000 casualties including 20,000 US Army deaths.
The courage and sacrifice of our brave Allied soldiers during the D-Day invasion and Operation Overlord is a true testament to the American fighting spirit. Forever in our history and everyday lives, the acts of heroism witnessed during the Overlord campaign should be honored, and right here in New England you can do just that.
In Stow, Massachusetts, just south of the New Hampshire border, stands The American Heritage Museum. Dedicated to preserving the culture of American patriotism, this one of a kind 65,000 square foot museum features one of the greatest collections of World War II memorabilia and exhibits including tanks, displays and artifacts. Their walking exhibit brings you through a timeline of actual events that Allied troops faced every day during their campaign. Visitors to this amazing museum can have the opportunity to see firsthand what it was like to live in an M1 Sherman tank. In the summer months, reenactments take place and date all the way back to the Revolutionary War on the grounds of the museum. Spectators can witness in real-life, the true patriotism and perseverance American freedom fighters dedicated every single day to liberating Europe.
I invite you all to head down to this volunteer-run museum and to consider dedicating your time to ensuring our children will always learn to honor and respect our nation's bravest heroes.
Positive Profile of the Week: Senator Sharon Carson
This week we are delighted to highlight our friend Senator Sharon Carson – widely known by many as the hardest working State Senator in the New Hampshire Legislature. Hailing from the town of Londonderry, Sharon has an extensive background in civil and public service. Sharon is a veteran of the US Army and has a deep passion for the history of our country. In fact, she is a highly respected expert. With a doctorate degree in American history from the University of New Hampshire, she is currently an adjunct professor in history and political science at Nashua Community College.
She has taken this passion for history and civics into the public sphere serving first as a State Representative and now a State Senator. She has experienced the same success in politics as in the classroom rising through the ranks of leadership to the position of Majority Whip which gives her insight and influence into major pieces of legislation working through the state.
Sharon manages to lead in areas outside of politics too in what little spare time she has. She sits on the State Veterans Advisory Council, is a member of the American Legion, and is on the Board of Trustees for Liberty Harbor Academy. All of this while being the State Director for Women in Government for New Hampshire. And, teamed with her husband, Greg Carson, also an accomplished public servant, veteran and civic leader.
Senator Carson’s list of accomplishments and achievements never ceases to amaze, and I know that her best and brightest days are still ahead. She is truly a leader, and our state is indeed fortunate to have such a forward-looking leader who knows and respects our past!
Quotes of the Week: History, Traditions and Values
“A generation which ignores history has no past – and no future.” – Robert A. Heinlein
“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.” ― Michael Crichton
“We are our culture and tradition; if there is no culture or tradition we are no one" - Tamerlan Kuzgov.”
“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” ― Gustav Mahler
“History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are.” – David McCullough