I start every day by reading my copy of “The American Patriot’s Almanac,” the well written work of William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb. As an old history buff, I want you know that it is far more accurate to look back upon historical facts to better prepare resolving troubling issues confronting our daily lives and future conditions. As is said, “Hindsight is far more accurate than future speculation.”
On the June 22nd page of this Almanac there is a very timely historical report that has direct implications to today’s troubling world circumstances. Presbyterian minister John Witherspoon on this date in 1776 was elected to represent New Jersey in the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. He said, “There is not a single instance in history in which civil liberty was lost, and religious liberty preserved entire.” That could surely apply to what is going on in Middle East hot spots today.
Witherspoon came to our land from Scotland in 1768 to be President of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). A colleague once said of him, “He laid the foundation of a course of history in the college, and the principles of taste and the rules of good writing were both happily explained by him, and exemplified in his manner.” When Witherspoon realized there would be war with Britain, he said, “If your cause is just, if your principles are pure, and if your conduct is prudent, you need not fear the multitude of opposing hosts.” Wow, how insightful!
He was the only minister to sign The Declaration of Independence. He made a very important statement when urging independence from Britain when he said, “The country is not only ripe for the measure, but in danger of rotting for the want of it”. Those powerful words would certainly apply to the uprisings now going on in Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan today.
After the Revolutionary War he told his students, “Do not live useless and die contemptible.” This unsung founder and educator’s influence developed 9 future cabinet officers, 21 senators, 39 congressmen, 3 Supreme Court justices, 12 governors, a vice-president, and one President (James Madison) who was one of 5 Witherspoon students at the Constitutional Convention.
Thanks again to “The American Patriot’s Almanac” for recording this significant and valuable vision. Above are several examples of the value of looking back to secure a depth of knowledge that better prepares one for solving current and future problems more efficiently or effectively. We must never ignore the fact that our Founding Fathers laid the groundwork for the great quality of life and success our country has achieved. We must not fail to look back to their great guidance as we move forward. I fear that our recent political leadership has all too frequently moved ahead in excessive haste. They repeatedly fail to look back for solid proven guidance or they are just plain arrogant and self-centered.
I know that your Commander is dreaming, but wouldn’t it be a magnificent experience to sit in a room with all our Founding Fathers in attendance and hear just what they would have to say about our government today and the challenges we face in the 21st Century. I believe we could use their vision and guidance more today than ever before.