In the Room Where It Happens: The Legacy of the Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.[1]

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“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 📜
John Trumbull’s proud and bold image had been inspired by the recollections and  musings of Thomas Jefferson, of which Trumbull wrote, succinctly enough, “I began the composition of the Declaration of Independence, with the assistance of [Jefferson’s] information and advice.” Such a strong display would stand in stark contrast to Adams’ later reflections of this event. 📜
In a letter to William Plumer dated 28 March 1813, John Adams wrote, “They who were then members, all signed it, and, as I could not see their hearts, it would be hard for me to say that they did not approve it; but, as far as I could penetrate the intricate, internal foldings of their souls, I then believed, and have not since altered my opinion, that there were several who signed with regret, and several others, with many doubts and much lukewarmness.” John Adams recalls a moment of sober trepidation, and stepping into an unknown—a new frontier. 📜
Of this political and social frontier, Dr. Benjamin Rush argued in January 1787, “The American war is over: but this is far from being the case with the American revolution. On the contrary, nothing but the first act of the great drama is closed. It remains yet to establish and perfect our new forms of government; and to prepare the principles, morals, and manners of our citizens, for these forms of government, after they are established and brought to perfection.” 📜
All the great work.  All the hard yoga—the flexing, strengthening and breathing—of building a new nation that lives in harmony with its democratic and revolutionary principles would come after the war, and still in progress. 📜 Slightly more on my blog, click on my Linktr.ee then my Linkin.bio 📜 #sonoftheamericanrevolution #happyfourthofjuly #independenceday #independenceday2020 #declarationofindependence #johntrumbull #thomasjefferson #benjaminrush #johnadams #americanhistory #americanstudies #iteachhistory #teachersofinstagram #writersofinstagram #artoftheday

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John Trumbull’s proud and bold image had been inspired by the recollections and  musings of Thomas Jefferson, of which Trumbull wrote, succinctly enough, “I began the composition of the Declaration of Independence, with the assistance of [Jefferson’s] information and advice.”[2]  Such a strong display would stand in stark contrast to Adams’ later reflections of this event.

In a letter to William Plumer dated 28 March 1813, John Adams wrote, “They who were then members, all signed it, and, as I could not see their hearts, it would be hard for me to say that they did not approve it; but, as far as I could penetrate the intricate, internal foldings of their souls, I then believed, and have not since altered my opinion, that there were several who signed with regret, and several others, with many doubts and much lukewarmness.”[3]  John Adams recalls a moment of sober trepidation, and stepping into an unknown—a new frontier.

Of this political and social frontier, Dr. Benjamin Rush argued in January 1787, “The American war is over: but this is far from being the case with the American revolution. On the contrary, nothing but the first act of the great drama is closed. It remains yet to establish and perfect our new forms of government; and to prepare the principles, morals, and manners of our citizens, for these forms of government, after they are established and brought to perfection.”[4]

All the great work.  All the hard yoga—the flexing, strengthening and breathing—of building a new nation that lives in harmony with its democratic and revolutionary principles would come after the war, and still in progress.

Ancestry.com recreated Trumbull’s painting with a 2017 advertisement “Declaration Descendants” with an intentional multicultural and diverse cast that also included women, amongst whom was the Rev W. Douglas Banks, the 5th-great-grandson of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings.  Of his participation and connection to Jefferson, Banks writes, “I do not celebrate Thomas Jefferson or Sally Hemings. I celebrate opportunities where I can overcome the flaws in my family tree and embrace the greatness of my inheritance.”[5]

I closed my school year and lesson with the ninth grade with these exact thoughts and quotations with the final challenge, reflect on Benjamin Rush and Rev. Banks and consider this: “We can celebrate those opportunities where we can overcome the flaws of our country’s history and embrace the greatness of its promise.”

[1] “The Declaration of Independence,” National Archives, October 30, 2015, https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration.

[2] John Trumbull, The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776, Oil on canvas, 20 7/8 x 31 in., Yale University Art Gallery, accessed June 18, 2020, https://artgallery.yale.edu/collections/objects/69.

[3] John Adams, The Political Writings of John Adams (Regnery Publishing, 2001), 680.

[4] Benjamin Rush, “Address to the People of the United States,” https://archive.csac.history.wisc.edu/Benjamin_Rush.pdf.

[5] Rev W. Douglas Banks, “We Are All In The Room,” Huffington Post (blog), July 11, 2017, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/we-are-all-in-the-room_us_5964fdc5e4b005b0fdc8a8c0.

Multicultural and Anti-Racist Resources

Hello!  As a history and social studies teacher at a private high school, I help young people understand the evolution of the human consciousness and how to make sense of difficult questions of living in the social world.  I help students with the “hard yoga” — the flex-work, strengthening and breathing — of living in world.

Building diverse and inclusive communities, and undoing America’s legacy and racial inequality, will require more than virtue signaling with badges and memes or a selfie at a protest, it will take more passing the collection plate donating to a charity, and it will take more than “listening” and talking about how we listened, and “reading” and talking about what we read.   But these are all starts.  Allow me to share some of my resources and suggestions with you:

And this is just a start!  #blacklivesmatter

Be well!

 

My Wish for You …

“This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes, rainbows to follow the clouds, laughter to kiss your lips, sunsets to warm your heart, hugs when spirits sag, beauty for your eyes to see, friendships to brighten your being, faith so that you can believe, confidence for when you doubt, courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth, Love to complete your life.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes, rainbows to follow the clouds, laughter to kiss your lips, sunsets to warm your heart, hugs when spirits sag, beauty for your eyes to see, friendships to brighten your being, faith so that you can believe, confidence for when you doubt, courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth, Love to complete your life.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The New Colossus” in the Age of “Shithole Countries”

Jimmy Carter was President when I was born. He was the Sunday School teacher who wore sweaters when it was chilly, carried his own bags and had no real discernible ideology other than a commitment to peace. As a child, I don’t ever remember hearing, “That might be how President [George H.W.] Bush talks but that’s not how we talk in the house!” But here we are, six Presidents and forty years later, talking about “shithole countries.” This exact story might be new but this is by no means “new” news. This is the “grab ’em by the pussy” Donald Trump who “schlonged” his way to the White House. After the 2016 election, the principal of my daughter’s school held an all-school assembly after students taunted others with chants of “Build the Wall!” Yes, my daughter heard what I never had, “That might be how the President talks but that’s not how you will.” I don’t want to focus on Trump. I want to focus on the “rapists” who come from “shithole countries.”

My maternal grandmother’s parents arrived from Avellino, Italy just before World War I. They were also undocumented. My great-grandfather who conscientiously objected to compulsory service in the Italian army, promptly registered for the American draft because America was a “home worth fighting for.” All three of his sons served during World War II, and one of them with the 82nd Airborne that liberated his hometown. Yes, “dreamers” who were born in America, grew up American and proudly served their country, their home, the United States of America.

My paternal grandfather’s mother, left her “shithole” country of origin twice. She was the daughter of Irish tenant farmers who were so desperate, they gave her to her “rich” uncle (a coal miner) and spent her childhood in Pennsylvania. When her uncle died, she returned to Ireland. She was the first in her family to learn how to read and write. She was also a gifted painter. She brought her family to America herself, convinced that her children were too promising to stay in Ireland. Her daughters married well. Her elder son became a successful business executive, as did her younger son (my grandfather) who was also a wounded war hero.

My 2nd-great-grandmother arrived in New York from Scotland as a young single woman at the age of 16.

My earliest American ancestors were Puritans and Huguenots — like those seeking freedom from persecution.

Those fleeing “shithole countries” are fleeing shitty circumstances in search of the promise the American Dream offers, a peaceful and prosperous existence for our families, and a home worth fighting for.

So, this is how I leave you with the “New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus:

Las Vegas and “The Mindless Menace of Violence”

When I saw this on the news, I was as stunned and speechless as many of you.  And before the smoke even clears, the political debate begins with wild accusations and even crazier conspiracies.

I was a freshman in college when the Columbine shooting happened.  When the Sandy Hook shooting happened, and, yes, it really did happen, all I could think about was those poor children were my daughter’s age.

Assault weapons have no place in civil society.  High capacity magazines and after-market modifications have no place in civil society.  More guns do not make us safer.  I understand the fantasy, “the hero”, the “good guy”,that will save the day.  He was at Las Vegas, and he ran away.

So, I’ll leave with you with the words of the late Robert F. Kennedy speaking after the death of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.