Friday, July 1, 2016

Let's Celebrate Freedom!


Recently, while viewing a documentary film about the life of Benjamin Franklin, I was vividly reminded that our people have not always enjoyed liberty from a tyrannical government. Our forefathers shed their blood and literally risked everything they possessed to win our freedom. When the Constitution was written, James Madison (a great Virginian!) realized that certain freedoms needed to be specifically spelled out in writing in order to guarantee that they would not be usurped by a future not-so-good-government, and thus the Bill of Rights was born.

This year promises to be one of the most important election years in the history of our country. So much is at stake. Our children's future could depend upon whom we elect for the office of president. I am not going to spend my time telling anyone how to vote, but I will urge every American citizen of voting age, especially Christians, to consider your choice carefully and with much prayer and supplication. I do believe that God sets up whomever he pleases (and takes them down, too!), but it is still our God-given Constitutional right to make the best choice possible. That means we must get out and vote, not sit home on our couches and complain about our leaders. We are setting an example for our children. They are clearly watching us, and they are smart enough to tell the difference between what we say and what we do. So, set a good example. Do your research. Get down on your knees, pray for our country, and ask your children to join you in this prayer. Then in November, go to the polls and exercise your right to vote. You can make a difference!


The 4th of July Celebration is a good time to start afresh as a concerned citizen.
  • Buy an American flag and fly it (after boning up on the proper way to display and take care of Old Glory, of course!). Let your children help you with this. NOTE: The Boy Scouts manual has a wonderful description of the rules for caring for our flag.
  • Sing patriotic songs together. There was a time when every school child knew the words to "God Bless America", "America, the Beautiful" and "My Country 'Tis of Thee". I'm not sure if the adults could say the words today. It makes me sad. 
  • If you don't already have a family 4th of July tradition, start one. Make a date to go watch the fireworks. Plan a family cookout. Bake an apple pie. This is America, after all!
  • Buy patriotic t-shirts or wear red, white and blue. 
  • You might even plan to bury a time capsule, with each family member donating something that they think is important for the future to know about how Americans live. 
And since this blog is supposed to be about children's books, go to the library and find some patriotic picture books to read together. For early readers, I highly recommend Lynn Cheney's ABC book, America: A Patriotic Primer.

It is well written and illustrated and provides an easy segue to discuss your American heritage with your children. Talk about your ancestors. Dig out that family tree! My parents discovered that my mother's great, great, great Grandfather received a huge land grant from the King of England in the 1600s for his service to the king. What a way to introduce family history!

Another book series that I have come to appreciate, especially for middle grade levels, is the Rush Revere series written by Rush Limbaugh. No matter what your feelings about Mr. Limbaugh are, his books will captivate readers and give them a new appreciation for our history. After all, who wouldn't love to have a time-traveling, talking horse?!!! This is exciting to me, having grown up in Virginia where history was all around me. All I missed was Mr. Ed! (You youngsters may not know who Mr. Ed is...ask your grandparents!)


What has begun to terrify me, as a modern American, is the general lack of historical knowledge by our people. The subject of history, which should be one of the most exciting segments of the school curriculum, has been dumped on the bottom of the junk pile, along with cursive penmanship and recess--just not that important. And yet, not having an understanding of our past can lead to losing everything we hold dear as a nation. The stories of the starving days at Jamestown, the leadership of Captain John Smith, the importance of prayer in the lives of those first settlers--all of these things have impacted our nation's course. But the numbers of children, and adults for that matter, who are totally ignorant of what actually happened at Jamestown in 1607 and later with the Pilgrims in 1619, is massive. It wasn't just about Pocahontas or pumpkin pies. There were principles at stake, and events so harsh that more than half of these settlements perished in the first year of their existence. Scary! Most of us don't know what it means to miss a meal, let alone starve to death!

(Adults: You might enjoy reading The True Story of Pocahontas: The Other Side of History, written by Dr. Linwood "Little Bear" Custalow and Angela L. Daniel Silver Star. Chief Custalow is a member of the Mattaponi Tribe. They are direct descendants of Pocahontas. Using many of the stories handed down by his people, Chief Custalow has done much to fill in many of the gaps that other history books have left out about this special young girl who virtually changed the history of the world. This book is available on


Throughout history, there have been men who have risen up as leaders who have placed our country above their own personal needs and wants. We call such men statesmen (and no, I will not change that word just to be politically correct!). Patrick Henry, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln--they are all examples of such men. They were not perfect--but who is? However, they fashioned their lives in such a way that we still recognize their contributions to our society today. This summer would be a great time to introduce your children to these men by reading their biographies. It would be fun to make a scrapbook timeline and show when these men lived, plus identify the influence their lives had on our nation. Fewer women have been remembered for their deeds in the annals of our history, but they are still there. Look for them and include them in your study. One that I have recently enjoyed reading about is Betsy Dowdy. Her ride through the Great Dismal Swamp (on a previously wild mustang from the Outer Banks!) makes Paul Revere's Ride look like a cakewalk! You might want to read her story in this book, An Independent Spirit: The Tale of Betsy Dowdy and Black Bess by my friend Donna Campbell Smith. It is available on


Why not make a list of the characteristics of a statesman, and research the leaders of today to see which ones, if any, possess these time-honored character traits. (This could be enlightening!)

Whatever you choose to do this weekend, try to remember that our children are our future leaders. How will your celebration affect their future lives? Plan your actions accordingly. And may God bless you, your family, and the United States of America!


In closing, and for your enjoyment, please watch the following video of my dad's favorite comedian, Red Skelton:

You will be glad you did!