Studies upon studies reveal that our K-12 students, university students, and general public are generally uninformed and uneducated about American history, civics, and the Constitution. As a free people, we are responsible for our destiny. We have a solemn obligation to continuously and comprehensively educate all citizens about the foundations of our liberties or the blessings of freedom will be lost.
There are many reasons why this is the case, but one vital cause has been almost totally ignored – the demise of our civic calendar. This insight was struck upon by Judge Michael Warren, when, as an adult convert, he realized that all the great religions have a liturgical calendar – to halt the hustle and bustle of life – and enable followers to renew their faith. They make us put first things first.
In a parallel fashion, Judge Warren realized that America once had a vibrant civic calendar – Washington’s Birthday, Lincoln’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Armistice Day – to renew our faith in America. They taught us the important things undergirding the United States – courage, sacrifice, personal responsibility, dedication, the rule of law, limited government, freedom, equality, and our Constitution.
This understanding was deeply embraced by the Founding Fathers. On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail that the anniversary of American independence would be marked with “pomp and parade, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward, forever more.” What is missing today is Adams’ conjoined expectation that “It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized. . . .” Over time, the civic holidays were stripped of their meaning and commercialized – now they are empty excuses for appliance sales, barbecues, and three day weekends.
At a one-on-one lunch with his then ten year old daughter Leah, Judge Warren explained the importance – and demise – of the civic calendar. Outraged, Leah took it to heart and immediately vowed to do something about it. She pounded on the table and demanded that her father help her start a new celebration for America. Patriot Week was born.
Inspired by Kwanzaa’s model, in which each day is dedicated to a specific principle, they agreed that the celebration should be a week with key anchor dates. After some serious research, they selected September 11 (the anniversary of the terrorist attacks – which has deep significance to this generation) and September 17 (the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution – Constitution Day (schools receiving federal education funds are required to teach about the Constitution on that day)).
They also determined that each day should be dedicated to a First Principle from our Declaration of Independence: revolution; the rule of law; the Social Compact; unalienable rights; equality (racial); equality (gender); and limited government. Each day also commemorates the Founding Fathers and other great Patriots that made those First Principles come alive in America; key documents and speeches embodying the First Principles; and historical flags that represent them.
Since 2009, Patriot Week has caught fire across the nation.
Bi-partisan Patriot Week resolutions and proclamations have been issued by over 17 Governors and State Legislatures, and various counties and municipalities. In 2019 and 2020, the US Senate unanimously passed a Patriot Week resolution, co-sponsored by a Democrat (Senator Gary Peters) and Republican (Senator John Kennedy).
Patriot Week participants across the nation have included K-12 schools, colleges, law schools, senior centers, libraries, Kiwanis, Rotaries, businesses, banks, law firms, and many others. These grassroots participants tailor their Patriot Week efforts to best meet the needs of their circumstances and stakeholders. Activities have included, among other things, lessons plans, school assemblies, panel discussions, book signings, guest speakers, essay contests, concerts, parades, picnics, paloozas, 9/11 commemorations, gubernatorial debates, movies, and festivals.
The annual Patrick Henry Dinner draws hundreds to watch Leah re-enact Patrick Henry’s Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death! speech, has also featured historical re-enactors portraying Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, and Frederick Douglass, and honors several Patriots of the Year. Dozens of lesson plans are available on-line for educators. Leah and Judge Warren also produce a local cable program – Patriot Lessons – which is capable of national distribution – with over 150 episodes and counting. The Patriot Lessons: American History & Civics Podcast has tens of thousands of plays.
The Patriot Week Foundation achieved its 501(c)(3) status in December 2012 and has moved forward by building a sustainable, nonpartisan organization. Currently staffed with an Operations Manager and Education Consultant, the Patriot Week Foundation will be adding to its complement of talent shortly.
This unique, historically grounded, non-partisan approach is desperately needed in our toxic political environment. In no small measure, the fate of the nation depends on it.
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