Category

Current Events

Remembering Our Founding Fathers: Benjamin Franklin

By | Current Events, Exclude from Top Posts

The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” – Benjamin Franklin

(Photo: Portrait of Benjamin Franklin)

The Fourth of July marks a great and long-remembered day in American history. It was on July 4th in 1776 that the American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain and became an independent nation. In 1870, Independence Day became a federal holiday, though it wasn’t until 1938 that it became a paid federal holiday.

Our founding fathers consist of seven influential men. They are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton. While each of these men had faults and made mistakes, together they created our nation and continue to be remembered for their patriotism and courage.

In honor of Independence Day, let’s reflect on one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin: his life, his legacy, and the ways we have remembered and memorialized him.

Biography

Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17, 1706. He was one of 17 children born to a man who made soap and candles. He had very little formal education, and at the age of 12, he apprenticed to his brother, who introduced Franklin to the printer’s trade. During his apprenticeship, he read voraciously and taught himself to write. It was the beginning of a lifelong passion for the written word.

In 1730, Franklin married Deborah Read, and they eventually had two children together, Francis and Sarah. Still in the printing business, Franklin soon began to print currency for Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Gazette, and Poor Richard’s Almanack (which he also wrote). With his printing business and his investments, he was one of the wealthiest colonists in North America by the 1740s.

Starting in 1736, he began to involve himself in political office, beginning as a clerk of the Pennsylvania legislature. By 1748, he was wealthy enough that he retired, though he remained a silent partner in his business. He turned his attention to other pursuits, both scientific and political.

(Photo: Site of Franklin Museum in Philadelphia, PA)

In the following years, Franklin played a larger role in politics, even spending 18 years in London representing the Pennsylvania Assembly. In 1762, he returned to Philadelphia with the intention of returning to England. But with the passage of the Stamp Act in 1765 and subsequent events, he stayed in North America and sought to bridge the growing gulf between Great Britain and the colonies.

In 1775, he was elected to the Second Continental Congress. The following year, in July 1776, he helped to draft the Declaration of Independence and signed it along with many others. In October 1776, he went to France to petition for military aid. His efforts to secure military and diplomatic ties with France were successful in 1778. The French played a key role in the colonies’ winning of the Revolutionary War.

He lived in France until 1785 when he returned to the United States of America. He died in April 1790.

Franklin’s Legacy

(Photo: Declaration of Independence, which Franklin helped create)

As we look back at Benjamin Franklin’s life, none of us can deny that he left a legacy. Though he lived most of his life caught between worlds, he had a significant impact on the founding of our nation. In his lifetime, he was one of the most famous figures of the Western world. He was a printer, an inventor, a statesman, a diplomat, and a writer. His scientific discoveries included fundamental discoveries about electricity, the invention of bifocals, the odometer, and the glass harmonica. As a public servant, he had a hand in writing the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and his diplomatic efforts in France played a key role in winning the war.

At the time of his death, he was in disfavor with his friends and family in the United States. This was mainly due to his having lived so much outside of the United States. But nonetheless, an estimated 20,000 mourners gathered for his funeral in Philadelphia.

In June 1790, the Frenchman Count Mirabeau suggested to the French National Assembly that they, too, should wear mourning to honor Franklin. He said:

Would it not become us, gentlemen, to join in this religious act, to bear a part in this homage, rendered, in the face of the world, both to the rights of man and to the philosopher who has most contributed to extend their sway over the whole earth? Europe, enlightened and free, owes at least a token of remembrance and regret to one of the greatest men who have ever been engaged in the service of philosophy and liberty. I propose that it be decreed that the National Assembly, [over] three days, shall wear mourning for Benjamin Franklin.”

Franklin Remembered

Even now, we don’t have to look far to see the many ways that Franklin has been remembered and memorialized. Many schools, counties, towns, universities, and parks have been named for him. Fittingly, as he once printed currency, his face is on the $100 bill. And now, a museum stands where his home and print shop once did, and his written works are remembered and quoted. Ever heard “A friend in need is a friend indeed” or “A penny saved is a penny earned”? Those are Benjamin Franklin’s words, and they continue to live on.

(Photo: Statue of Benjamin Franklin)

It is through permanent memorials, like schools, museums, and statues, that we ensure a lasting tribute for those who have been loved and lost. Memorials also allow us, as people, to honor those we wish to always remember. Just as we create memorials for our heroes, we also create them for our loved ones in the form of grave markers, scholarship funds, or memorial donations.

The Importance of Legacy

As we reflect on Benjamin Franklin’s life, think also of your own life. Are you leaving a legacy that you and your family can be proud of? Have you shared what’s most important with those you care about? If you look at Franklin’s life, his legacy was peppered with both good and bad. It’s up to you whether you have an accidental legacy or an intentional one. Whether your legacy empowers others or brings them low.

(Photo: Statue of Benjamin Franklin outside the Old Post Office Building in Washington, D.C.)

With our legacies, we contribute to the future. The things we do and say affect the lives of others and have the power to create good or bad. What we do matters. What Benjamin Franklin did matters. Most of us are not prominent people. Our names are unknown to thousands, or even millions, of people. But then, fame and glory aren’t the point of a legacy. Instead, it is our responsibility as good men and women to create legacies that will take our families and the next generation to a level we can only imagine.

Let’s learn from Benjamin Franklin’s successes and mistakes and live lives that positively impact others and create legacies worth remembering.

Remembering Our Founding Fathers: James Madison

By | Current Events, Exclude from Top Posts

The happy union of these states is a wonder; their constitution a miracle; their example the hope of liberty throughout the world.” – James Madison

(Photo: Portrait of James Madison)

The Fourth of July marks a great and long-remembered day in American history. It was on July 4th in 1776 that the American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain and became an independent nation. In 1870, Independence Day became a federal holiday, though it wasn’t until 1938 that it became a paid federal holiday.

Our founding fathers consist of seven influential men. They are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton. While each of these men had faults and made mistakes, together they created our nation and continue to be remembered for their patriotism and courage.

In honor of Independence Day, let’s reflect on one of our founding fathers, James Madison: his life, his legacy, and the ways we have remembered and memorialized him.

Biography

James Madison was born in 1751 in Orange County, Virginia, to a successful planter. He was the oldest of 12. In 1771, Madison graduated from what is now called Princeton University. He returned home to Virginia in 1772, and in 1775, he became a militia colonel.

In 1776, he attended the Virginia Convention, and around that time, he met Thomas Jefferson. The two would enjoy a lifelong friendship. In 1780, he served as one of Virginia’s delegates to the Continental Congress. However, in 1787, he began work on a document that would fundamentally change the fledgling nation – the U.S. Constitution.

When the Constitutional Convention met in May 1787, they intended to amend the United States’ current governmental document, the Articles of Confederation. However, they created a new document – the Constitution – and Madison was the chief recorder of information and played a key role in the Constitution’s creation. At first, the Constitution faced opposition from several states. Madison, along with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, wrote a series of persuasive letters (the Federalist Papers) in an effort to get the Constitution ratified. It worked.

(Photo: Grounds at Montpelier, Madison’s estate)

Just two years later, in 1789, Madison won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and was an instrumental force behind the Bill of Rights, which was adopted in 1791. In 1795, Madison married Dolley Payne Todd, and tired of the political battles, he retired to his family home, Montpelier.

However, he returned to politics in 1801 to serve as President Thomas Jefferson’s secretary of state. After Jefferson’s two terms, Madison became the fourth president of the United States in 1808. It was during his presidency that the United States fought against Britain in the War of 1812.

After leaving office, Madison returned to Montpelier with Dolley. There, he ran the plantation and helped create the University of Virginia (along with Thomas Jefferson). He assumed leadership of the school in 1826. He served as college chancellor until his death on June 28, 1836.

Madison’s Legacy

(Photo: U.S. Constitution)

As we look back at James Madison’s life, none of us can deny that he left a legacy. He is often called the “Father of the Constitution” and was a driving force behind the Bill of Rights. If nothing else, it is due to James Madison that Americans today have the right to a fair trial, freedom of speech, and the exercise of religion. He was an intellectual, a patriot, our fourth president, and a man whose ideas shaped a nation and established the rights we enjoy today.

Following his death in June 1836, former president John Quincy Adams (sixth president) was asked to deliver a eulogy in Madison’s honor. He said:

Let us look back then for consolation from the thought of the shortness of human life, as urged upon us by the recent decease of James Madison, one of the pillars and ornaments of his country and of his age. His time on earth was short, yet he died full of years and of glory – less, far less than one hundred years have elapsed since the day of his birth – yet has he fulfilled, nobly fulfilled, his destinies as a man and a Christian. He has improved his own condition by improving that of his country….”

Madison Remembered

Even now, we don’t have to look far to see the many ways that Madison has been remembered and memorialized. Buildings, counties, towns, military vessels, parks, and statues have been named for him. Any time children learn about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the early days of our nation, James Madison will always be mentioned.

(Photo: Capital Building in Madison, WI, which was named after James Madison)

It is through permanent memorials, like schools, museums, and statues, that we ensure a lasting tribute for those who have been loved and lost. Memorials also allow us, as people, to honor those we wish to always remember. Just as we create memorials for our heroes, we also create them for our loved ones in the form of grave markers, scholarship funds, or memorial donations.

The Importance of Legacy

As we reflect on James Madison’s life, think also of your own life. Are you leaving a legacy that you and your family can be proud of? Have you shared what’s most important with those you care about? If you look at Madison’s life, his legacy was peppered with both good and bad. It’s up to you whether you have an accidental legacy or an intentional one. Whether your legacy empowers others or brings them low.

(Photo: Bill of Rights)

With our legacies, we contribute to the future. The things we do and say affect the lives of others and have the power to create good or bad. What we do matters. What James Madison did matters. Most of us are not prominent people. Our names are unknown to thousands, or even millions, of people. But then, fame and glory aren’t the point of a legacy. Instead, it is our responsibility as good men and women to create legacies that will take our families and the next generation to a level we can only imagine.

Let’s learn from James Madison’s successes and mistakes and live lives that positively impact others and create legacies worth remembering.

Remembering Our Founding Fathers: John Jay

By | Current Events, Exclude from Top Posts

America belongs to ‘We the People.’”  – John Jay

(Photo: John Jay in his chief justice robes)

The Fourth of July marks a great and long-remembered day in American history. It was on July 4th in 1776 that the American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain and became an independent nation. In 1870, Independence Day became a federal holiday, though it wasn’t until 1938 that it became a paid federal holiday.

Our founding fathers consist of seven influential men. They are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton. While each of these men had faults and made mistakes, together they created our nation and continue to be remembered for their patriotism and courage.

In honor of Independence Day, let’s reflect on one of our founding fathers, John Jay: his life, his legacy, and the ways we have remembered and memorialized him.

Biography

Born on December 12, 1745, in New York, John Jay was born to a wealthy merchant family. He later graduated from King’s College (Columbia University) in 1764 and began his career as a lawyer. He quickly became known in New York political circles and was elected to represent New York at the first Continental Congress in 1774. During this meeting, representatives discussed colonial resistance to Britain’s oppressive laws.

Also, in 1774, John Jay married Sarah Livingstone. They would have six children together, one of which was William Jay, who would later become one of America’s most important abolitionists and friend to Frederick Douglass.

(Photo: Columbia University, where Jay attended)

At the beginning of the conflict with Great Britain, John Jay desired a peaceful resolution with Great Britain but fully supported the Revolution. He served as president of the Continental Congress in 1778 before traveling to Spain, seeking support for the colonial cause. Though his efforts in Spain did not produce the desired results, in 1782, he went to France and helped negotiate the Treaty of Paris, the document that ended the Revolutionary War.

After the treaty was signed, the Articles of Confederation became the first constitution of the United States. However, in 1787, it became apparent that a new constitution was needed. James Madison was a driving force behind the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights we still use today. However, the document wasn’t supported by the states in the beginning. Therefore, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison banded together to write The Federalist Papers, which argued in support of the new Constitution. Soon thereafter, the Constitution was ratified and went into effect.

In 1789, George Washington appointed Jay as the Supreme Court’s first chief justice, a position he held until 1795. He resigned his position as chief justice to serve as governor of New York. In 1801, Jay retired to his family farm, and he died on May 17, 1829.

Jay’s Legacy

(Photo: Gavel in a courtroom)

As we look back at John Jay’s life, none of us can deny that he left a legacy. He drafted New York’s first state constitution, served as a key negotiator at the Treaty of Paris, served as New York’s second governor, and became our very first Supreme Court chief justice. He was a writer, a patriot, and a bastion of support for the U.S. Constitution.

Though he is the most forgotten of the founding fathers, he still had a significant impact. Walter Stahr wrote a book about John Jay, and in it, he says: “Unlike John Adams, who spent a lot of time defending his place in history, Jay does not spend a lot of time on that. He answers letters as they arrive but doesn’t seek out writing engagements. The War of 1812 (between the U.S. and Britain) is very worrisome because he devoted a lot of his time to avoiding that. And he worried about the emerging tensions between North and South. In the end, he’s more worried about America than he is about John Jay.”

Known as a quiet man who never lost his cool or his dignity, Jay, along with the other founding fathers, played a key role in creating the nation we live in today.

Jay Remembered

Even though Jay is not as famous as his counterparts, he is still remembered and memorialized. Many towns and counties in New York are named after him as well as a number of schools. Also, James Fenimore Cooper, author of The Last of the Mohicans, used Jay’s childhood home as inspiration in one of his written works. When children learn about the founding of our nation, John Jay will always be mentioned.

(Photo: Supreme Court building)

It is through permanent memorials, like schools, museums, and statues, that we ensure a lasting tribute for those who have been loved and lost. Memorials also allow us, as people, to honor those we wish to always remember. Just as we create memorials for our heroes, we also create them for our loved ones in the form of grave markers, scholarship funds, or memorial donations.

The Importance of Legacy

As we reflect on John Jay’s life, think also of your own life. Are you leaving a legacy that you and your family can be proud of? Have you shared what’s most important with those you care about? If you look at Jay’s life, his legacy was peppered with both good and bad. However, it’s up to you whether you have an accidental legacy or an intentional one. Whether your legacy empowers others or brings them low.

(Photo: American flag flying in Washington, D.C.)

With our legacies, we contribute to the future. The things we do and say affect the lives of others and have the power to create good or bad. What we do matters. What John Jay did matters. Most of us are not prominent people. Our names are unknown to thousands, or even millions, of people. But then, fame and glory aren’t the point of a legacy. Instead, it is our responsibility as good men and women to create legacies that will take our families and the next generation to a level we can only imagine.

Let’s learn from John Jay’s successes and mistakes and live lives that positively impact others and create legacies worth remembering.

Remembering Our Founding Fathers: Alexander Hamilton

By | Current Events, Exclude from Top Posts

Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” -Alexander Hamilton

(Photo: Portrait of Alexander Hamilton)

The Fourth of July marks a great and long-remembered day in American history. It was on July 4th in 1776 that the American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain and became an independent nation. In 1870, Independence Day became a federal holiday, though it wasn’t until 1938 that it became a paid federal holiday.

Our founding fathers consist of seven influential men. They are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton. While each of these men had faults and made mistakes, together they created our nation and continue to be remembered for their patriotism and courage.

In honor of Independence Day, let’s reflect on one of our founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton: his life, his legacy, and the ways we have remembered and memorialized him.

Biography

Born in the British West Indies in January 1755 or 1757, Alexander Hamilton was the illegitimate son of Rachel Lavien and James Hamilton. When he was 11, Hamilton’s father deserted the family, and not long after, his mother died.

For a time, he worked as an accounting clerk, where he first learned about international commerce. With his employer’s help, Hamilton went to America to pursue an education. He arrived in America in 1773. Soon after, Hamilton took up the colonials’ cause.

By 1777, he became George Washington’s assistant and trusted advisor. For the next five years, Hamilton worked closely with Washington. Also during this time, Hamilton married Elizabeth Schuyler, with whom he would have eight children.

(Photo: George Washington, whom Hamilton served under)

Following the Treaty of Paris, which ended the war, Hamilton remained with Washington until 1782, at which time he left to pursue a career in law. Hamilton enjoyed a large amount of success, distinguishing himself as one of New York City’s finest attorneys.

Hamilton continued his involvement in politics. He served as a New York delegate, joined James Madison and John Jay in writing the Federalist Papers, and under George Washington’s presidency, became the first secretary of the treasury.

In 1800, Thomas Jefferson narrowly won the presidency. Aaron Burr served as Jefferson’s vice president. When Jefferson ran in 1804, he did not include Burr on his ticket. Instead, Burr ran for the New York governorship, but lost. While frustrated and angry at this loss, Burr read a newspaper article that quoted Hamilton as saying that Burr was “the most unfit and dangerous man of the community.”

Burr demanded an explanation, which Hamilton refused to give. Burr then challenged Hamilton to a duel, which Hamilton reluctantly accepted. On July 11, 1804, the duel took place. Hamilton received a fatal wound and died the following day.

Hamilton’s Legacy

(Photo: Statue of Hamilton outside the U.S. Treasury building)

As we look back at Alexander Hamilton’s life, none of us can deny that he left a legacy. He served as a delegate at the Constitutional Convention and was a major author of the Federalist Papers. But most importantly, he served as our first secretary of the treasury. In this role, he created a modern financial system, funded the national debt, founded a bank, and established a mint with the dollar as currency.

Though he is not the most prominent of our founding fathers, he still had a significant impact on the success of our nation, particularly in regard to early financial stability. Two days after his death, Hamilton’s longtime friend, Gouverneur Morris said in a eulogy: “At the time when our government was organised, we were without funds, though not without resources. To call them into action, and establish order in the finances, Washington sought for splendid talents, for extensive information, and, above all, he sought for sterling, incorruptible integrity—All these he found in Hamilton.”

Hamilton Remembered

In recent years, Alexander Hamilton’s name has resurfaced because of the success of the Broadway musical, Hamilton, which is based on his life. In addition to this popular theatrical production, we remember and memorialize Hamilton in other ways. Many towns, counties, parks, bridges, schools, and even ships are named after him. Additionally, it is his face on the $10 bill. Anytime children learn about the founding of our nation, Alexander Hamilton will always be mentioned.

(Photo: Hamilton on the $10 bill)

It is through permanent memorials, like schools, museums, and statues, that we ensure a lasting tribute for those who have been loved and lost. Memorials also allow us, as people, to honor those we wish to always remember. Just as we create memorials for our heroes, we also create them for our loved ones in the form of grave markers, scholarship funds, or memorial donations.

The Importance of Legacy

As we reflect on Alexander Hamilton’s life, think also of your own life. Are you leaving a legacy that you and your family can be proud of? Have you shared what’s most important with those you care about? If you look at Hamilton’s life, his legacy was peppered with both good and bad. However, it’s up to you whether you have an accidental legacy or an intentional one. Whether your legacy empowers others or brings them low.

(Photo: U.S. Treasury in Washington, D.C.)

With our legacies, we contribute to the future. The things we do and say affect the lives of others and have the power to create good or bad. What we do matters. What Alexander Hamilton did matters. Most of us are not prominent people. Our names are unknown to thousands, or even millions, of people. But then, fame and glory aren’t the point of a legacy. Instead, it is our responsibility as good men and women to create legacies that will take our families and the next generation to a level we can only imagine.

Let’s learn from Alexander Hamilton’s successes and mistakes and live lives that positively impact others and create legacies worth remembering.

Remembering Our Founding Fathers: Thomas Jefferson

By | Current Events, Exclude from Top Posts

Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” – Thomas Jefferson

(Photo: Statue of Jefferson at Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.)

The Fourth of July marks a great and long-remembered day in American history. It was on July 4th in 1776 that the American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain and became an independent nation. In 1870, Independence Day became a federal holiday, though it wasn’t until 1938 that it became a paid federal holiday.

Our founding fathers consist of seven influential men. They are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton. While each of these men had faults and made mistakes, together they created our nation and continue to be remembered for their patriotism and courage.

In honor of Independence Day, let’s reflect on one of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson: his life, his legacy, and the ways we have remembered and memorialized him.

Biography

Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, in Virginia. He was born the third of ten siblings in a prominent family. In 1760, he attended the College of William and Mary, and eventually, he became a lawyer.

From 1767-1774, Jefferson practiced law in Virginia to great success. During this time, he also fell in love with and married Martha Wayles Skelton. They married on January 1, 1772, and eventually had six children together (though only two lived to adulthood).

Jefferson became involved in the colonial cause early in its development. In 1768, he served in the Virginia House of Burgesses, and in 1775, he attended the Second Continental Congress.

(Photo: Monticello, Jefferson’s home in Virginia)

In 1776, Jefferson was part of a five-man committee to draft a declaration of independence. He wrote the first draft in 17 days. After the Declaration was adopted on July 4, 1776, he returned to Virginia where he served in the Virginia House of Delegates and then as the second governor of Virginia.

Afterward, Jefferson retreated from public life until the untimely death of his young wife. He was then appointed the U.S. Minister to France, replacing Benjamin Franklin. After five years in France, he returned to serve as Secretary of State during Washington’s presidency.

Jefferson went on to serve as Vice President under John Adams, and in 1801, he became the third president of the United States and served two terms. Perhaps the most significant accomplishment of his presidency was the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. With this purchase from Napoleonic France, he doubled the size of the new nation.

After his presidency, Jefferson devoted much of his time to the establishment of the University of Virginia, and on July 4, 1826 – the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence – he died at his home.

Jefferson’s Legacy

(Photo: The Declaration of Independence)

As we look back at Thomas Jefferson’s life, none of us can deny that he left a legacy. He drafted the Declaration of Independence, served as both Vice President and President, and helped double the size of our nation. He was a scholar, a lawyer, a patriot, our third president, and a man whose words shaped the document that led to the creation of the United States of America.

During the last years of his life, Jefferson developed a strong friendship with his former political opponent, John Adams. In fact, they would die on the same day – July 4, 1826.

One month after their deaths, statesman Daniel Webster gave a eulogy for both men. He said:

As human beings, indeed, they are no more. To their country they yet live, and live forever. They live in all that perpetuates the remembrance of men on earth; in the recorded proofs of their own great actions, in the offspring of their intellect, in the deep engraved lines of public gratitude, and in the respect and homage of mankind. They live in their example; and they live, emphatically, and will live in the influence which their lives and efforts, their principles and opinions, now exercise, and will continue to exercise, on the affairs of men, not only in their own country but throughout the civilized world.”

Jefferson Remembered

Even now, we don’t have to look far to see the many ways that Jefferson has been remembered and memorialized. Mt. Rushmore, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, schools, universities, streets, cities, parks, and statues have been named for him. Any time children learn about the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson will always appear.

(Photo: Mount Rushmore, Jefferson is the second from the left)

It is through permanent memorials, like schools, museums, and statues, that we ensure a lasting tribute for those who have been loved and lost. Memorials also allow us, as people, to honor those we wish to always remember. Just as we create memorials for our heroes, we also create them for our loved ones in the form of grave markers, scholarship funds, or memorial donations.

The Importance of Legacy

As we reflect on Thomas Jefferson’s life, think also of your own life. Are you leaving a legacy that you and your family can be proud of? Have you shared what’s most important with those you care about? If you look at Jefferson’s life, his legacy was peppered with both good and bad. However, it’s up to you whether you have an accidental legacy or an intentional one. Whether your legacy empowers others or brings them low.

(Photo: Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.)

With our legacies, we contribute to the future. The things we do and say affect the lives of others and have the power to create good or bad. What we do matters. What Thomas Jefferson did matters. Most of us are not prominent people. Our names are unknown to thousands, or even millions, of people. But then, fame and glory aren’t the point of a legacy. Instead, it is our responsibility as good men and women to create legacies that will take our families and the next generation to a level we can only imagine.

Let’s learn from Thomas Jefferson’s successes and mistakes and live lives that positively impact others and create legacies worth remembering.

Remembering Our Founding Fathers: John Adams

By | Current Events, Exclude from Top Posts

To be good, and to do good, is all we have to do.” – John Adams

(Photo: Portrait of John Adams)

The Fourth of July marks a great and long-remembered day in American history. It was on July 4th in 1776 that the American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain and became an independent nation. In 1870, Independence Day became a federal holiday, though it wasn’t until 1938 that it became a paid federal holiday.

Our founding fathers consist of seven influential men. They are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton. While each of these men had faults and made mistakes, together they created our nation and continue to be remembered for their patriotism and courage.

In honor of Independence Day, let’s reflect on one of our founding fathers, John Adams: his life, his legacy, and the ways we have remembered and memorialized him.

Biography

John Adams was born on October 30, 1735, in Massachusetts to John and Susanna Adams. At 16, he earned a scholarship to attend Harvard University. He graduated in 1755 and went to work for a prominent attorney. Three years later, he earned his master’s degree from Harvard and passed the bar exam. He married Abigail Smith in October 1764, and they had six children (one of whom, John Quincey Adams, would later become the sixth president).

(Photo: John Adams’s birthplace)

Soon after the Stamp Act of 1765, Adams became identified with the colonials’ cause. He wrote many essays in opposition to Great Britain’s acts. In 1770, he represented British soldiers on trial for killing five civilians at what has become known as the Boston Massacre. He believed that every person deserved a defense. In the end, six of the eight soldiers were acquitted and two convicted of manslaughter.

At the time, the people did not look kindly on his defense of the soldiers, but in the future, his actions would enhance his reputation as a generous and fair man. In 1774, he represented Massachusetts at the First Continental Congress, and when the Continental Army was created in 1775, he nominated George Washington as commander-in-chief.

In 1776, Adams, along with Thomas Jefferson and several others, was appointed by Congress to draft a declaration. The result was our Declaration of Independence, approved on July 4. The war continued, and in 1779, Adams was one of the American diplomats (along with Benjamin Franklin) sent to negotiate the Treaty of Paris, which would end the Revolutionary War.

Adams remained in Europe for a number of years, representing the newly formed United States of America. During Washington’s two terms as president, Adams served as vice president. Then, in 1796, he became the second president of the United States, narrowly beating out Thomas Jefferson. After his single term, he retired and lived quietly with his wife in Massachusetts. He died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of American Independence.

Adams’s Legacy

(Photo: Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed)

As we look back at John Adams’s life, none of us can deny that he left a legacy. Though he often dealt with public opposition, due to his decision to defend the British soldiers after the Boston Massacre and his later decision not to start a naval war with France, he was a major influence in the founding of our nation. He was a loving father and husband, an articulate statesman and politician, and he was unswerving in his support of the cause for independence. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, our first vice president, and our second president.

Following his presidency and his retirement to Massachusetts, Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who were often opponents, began writing to each other and developed a strong friendship. They would die on the same day, one in Massachusetts, the other in Virginia.

One month after their deaths, statesman Daniel Webster gave a eulogy for both men. He said:

As human beings, indeed, they are no more. To their country they yet live, and live forever. They live in all that perpetuates the remembrance of men on earth; in the recorded proofs of their own great actions, in the offspring of their intellect, in the deep engraved lines of public gratitude, and in the respect and homage of mankind. They live in their example; and they live, emphatically, and will live in the influence which their lives and efforts, their principles and opinions, now exercise, and will continue to exercise, on the affairs of men, not only in their own country but throughout the civilized world.”

Adams Remembered

Even now, we don’t have to look far to see the many ways that Adams has been remembered and memorialized. Buildings, counties, military vessels, mountains, parks, and statues have been named for him. Any time children learn about the early days of our nation, John Adams will always appear.

(Photo: Scene from the signing of the Declaration of Independence as seen on the back of the $2 bill – Adams on far left)

It is through permanent memorials, like schools, museums, and statues, that we ensure a lasting tribute for those who have been loved and lost. Memorials also allow us, as people, to honor those we wish to always remember. Just as we create memorials for our heroes, we also create them for our loved ones in the form of grave markers, scholarship funds, or memorial donations.

The Importance of Legacy

As we reflect on John Adams’s life, think also of your own life. Are you leaving a legacy that you and your family can be proud of? Have you shared what’s most important with those you care about? If you look at Adams’s life, his legacy was peppered with both good and bad. It’s up to you whether you have an accidental legacy or an intentional one. Whether your legacy empowers others or brings them low.

(Photo: John Adams’s signature)

With our legacies, we contribute to the future. The things we do and say affect the lives of others and have the power to create good or bad. What we do matters. What John Adams did matters. Most of us are not prominent people. Our names are unknown to thousands, or even millions, of people. But then, fame and glory aren’t the point of a legacy. Instead, it is our responsibility as good men and women to create legacies that will take our families and the next generation to a level we can only imagine.

Let’s learn from John Adams’s successes and mistakes and live lives that positively impact others and create legacies worth remembering.

Remembering Our Founding Fathers: George Washington

By | Current Events, Exclude from Top Posts

I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.” – George Washington

(Photo: George Washington during the Revolutionary War)

The Fourth of July marks a great and long-remembered day in American history. It was on July 4th in 1776 that the American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain and became an independent nation. In 1870, Independence Day became a federal holiday, though it wasn’t until 1938 that it became a paid federal holiday.

Our founding fathers consist of seven influential men. They are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton. While each of these men had faults and made mistakes, together they created our nation and continue to be remembered for their patriotism and courage.

In honor of Independence Day, let’s reflect on one of our founding fathers, George Washington: his life, his legacy, and the ways we have remembered and memorialized him.

Biography

George Washington was born on February 22, 1732, in Westmoreland, Virginia. He was the eldest child of Augustine and Mary Ball Washington, though he was the fourth child overall (his mother being Augustine’s second wife). Not much is known about his childhood, except that he was mostly educated at home and helped his father on the tobacco farm.

When he was 11, his father died, and he became the ward of his half-brother, Lawrence. Sadly, in 1752, Lawrence died of tuberculosis when Washington was only 20 years old, leaving him as the heir of Mount Vernon and the family lands.

(Photo: George Washington’s family home of Mt. Vernon) 

Shortly after Lawrence’s death, Washington’s military career began. During the French and Indian War, he was appointed a major in the Virginia militia. Though he fought bravely, bureaucracy mired his experience with the militia, and in 1758, he resigned and returned to Mount Vernon.

At this time, he married Martha Custis, a widow, and loved her two children as his own. From 1758 until the Revolutionary War began, he focused on his home and lands. As tensions with Great Britain continued to rise, he became involved in politics, and in 1775, he was appointed Major General and Commander-in-Chief of the colonial forces by the Second Continental Congress.

Through many dark days and bloody battles, Washington commanded the colonial forces until November 1783 when the war was over. He resigned from his position on December 23, 1783, and returned home to Mount Vernon to rebuild his lands.

Then, in 1789, he became the first president of the United States. In this role, he set the precedent for all the presidents that would follow. He served two terms, and in 1797, he turned the presidency over to John Adams and retired to Virginia. Two years later, in December 1799, he became sick and died. The entire country mourned at his passing.

Washington’s Legacy

(Photo: Statue of George Washington in New York City)

As we look back at George Washington’s life, none of us can deny that he left a legacy. Often called the “Father of His Country,” Washington lived with integrity and character. He cared deeply for the men under his command, he loved his wife and adopted children loyally, and he is known as a man of personal integrity, focused on duty, honor, and patriotism.

He was a loving husband and father, a military hero, and our first president. To this day, we remember him with respect and awe for who he was and what he accomplished.

At his funeral, Congressman Henry Lee eulogized Washington with these words, which would impress Washington’s memory on the American people:

“First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in humble and enduring scenes of private life. Pious, just, humane, temperate, and sincere; uniform, dignified, and commanding; his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting. … Correct throughout, vice shuddered in his presence and virtue always felt his fostering hand. The purity of his private character gave effulgence to his public virtues. … Such was the man for whom our nation mourns.

Washington Remembered

Even now, we don’t have to look far to see the many ways that Washington has been remembered and memorialized. The Washington Monument, George Washington University, the state of Washington, Mt. Rushmore, the $1 bill, plus numerous institutions, towns, counties, parks, and statues are all named to honor his memory.

(Photo: Mount Rushmore, Washington depicted on far left) 

It is through these permanent memorials that we ensure a lasting tribute for those who have been loved and lost. Memorials also allow us, as people, to honor those we wish to always remember. Just as we create memorials for our heroes, we also create them for our loved ones in the form of grave markers, scholarship funds, or memorial donations.

The Importance of Legacy

As we reflect on George Washington’s life, think also of your own life. Are you leaving a legacy that you and your family can be proud of? Have you shared what’s most important with those you care about? It’s up to you whether you have an accidental legacy or an intentional one. Whether your legacy empowers others or brings them low.

(Photo: Washington Monument, built to commemorate his life and legacy)

With our legacies, we contribute to the future. The things we do and say affect the lives of others and have the power to create good or bad. What we do matters. What George Washington did matters. Most of us are not prominent people. Our names are unknown to thousands, or even millions, of people. But then, fame and glory aren’t the point of a legacy. Instead, it is our responsibility as good men and women to create legacies that will take our families and the next generation to a level we can only imagine.

Let’s learn from George Washington and live lives that positively impact others and create legacies worth remembering.

A Year in Review: The Top 5 Books on Grief & Loss from 2018

By | Current Events, Grief/Loss

We mourn because we love. That’s true of us all. Grief is a universal emotion, and because it is, we can find hope and encouragement in the stories of others. Dr. Wolfelt, nationally recognized grief expert, tells us about the importance of mourning well. He says, “Making the choice not just to grieve, but to authentically mourn, provides us the courage to live through the pain of loss and be transformed by it. How ironic that to ultimately go on to live well and love well we must allow ourselves to mourn well.” Below is a list of the top 5 books published in 2018 (chosen based on Amazon reader reviews) about grief, loss, and the journey toward healing. Perhaps the words and experiences of others will help you as you navigate your own grief journey this year.

Book #1: The Widower’s Notebook, a Memoir

Author: Jonathan Santlofer

Synopsis: On a normal day in New York, Jonathan finds his wife, Joy, fighting for breath in their living room. After calling the paramedics and spending many tense hours at the hospital, he learns that she has died. Not sure how to deal with the depth of emotion welling within him, he turns to writing and art to help him maneuver through the complexities of losing the wife he loved.

Review: “Widower is stunning, harrowing, un-put-down-able…Jonathan Santlofer finds language that is immediate and intimate for the irreconcilable trauma of loss. Without pause he captures the shattered time that is grief—this book is fearless, brave for its humanity, honesty, love. Santlofer brings the reader into his heart, sharing all the things that one feels but dares not say aloud, all that one wants to know but can’t ask of themselves, of those around them, of their lost loved one.” —A.M. Homes, author of May We Be Forgiven

Book #2: Grief Day by Day

Author: Jan Warner

Synopsis: Grief Day by Day offers 365 reflections, weekly themes, and healing exercises for dealing with the complexities of grief. Jan Warner draws on her own experience with loss to offer hope and useful guidance to others who are struggling. With the book’s set-up, the reader can use it in the way that best suits them and their specific needs.

Review: “This is quite literally a shattering book: it takes in both hands and smashes one of the most pernicious of our modern myths – that grief is an aberrant state, properly and speedily to be put away. It instead explores the idea of grief as a part of life. Thus repositioned, grief can be acknowledged as one (but only one) enduring element of the mourner’s identity.” ―Sarah Gristwood, best-selling author, historian, and commentator on the British royal family

Book #3: Wonder Widows

Authors: Trish Comer, Peggy Langenwalter, and Jennifer Cox Horak

Synopsis: Written by three widows, this book is an invitation to join Trish, Peggy, and Jennifer on their journey. They kindly and lovingly share about their challenges and triumphs while navigating widowhood. This book focuses on empowering widows. Not only do the authors share their personal stories, but they explores how to shape a new identity, how to handle holidays and anniversaries, and so much more!

Review: While Wonder Widows is a compassionate window into a sensitive and painful passage, it’s also hopeful as it explores the possibility of lives rebuilt. I think this is an important book for everyone to read because sooner or later we’ll all experience loss, whether our own or that of a friend. Reading Wonder Widows gave me insight into what might be going on behind the public face a grieving person presents to the world and how we might all be more aware and compassionate.” —Amazon Reviewer Danelle

Book #4: Grief as a Second Language: A Guidebook for Living with the Loss of a Loved One

Author: Stacy Parker

Synopsis: Written by a bereaved parent, this book helps people understand and become comfortable with the language of grief. As it moves the reader toward a greater understanding of the complexities of grief, it explores important topics like how to release self-blame, how to cope with the physical absence of your loved one, and which reactions are perfectly normal (all of them!).

Review: “This book is written by the best kind of grief expert, someone who has taken the journey out of the darkness and back into the light. Stacy shares with her readers practical tips and tools for taking care of your physical and emotional health after loss and for finding purpose and meaning again. Thank you, Stacy, for being honest about your own grief journey and helping us to navigate ours. I wish I had this book after my brother died; it would have been a lifeline at a time where I felt very alone and had no idea how to navigate the second language of grief.” —Dr. Heidi Horsley, Executive Director of Open to Hope Foundation

Book #5: Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense

Author: Dr. Paul David Tripp

Synopsis: No matter what the catalyst may be, we have all had our lives changed in an instant. Whether it be death, illness, loss of employment, loss of relationship, or something else, we aren’t sure how to deal with what has happened. In this book, Dr. Tripp shares his own journey and what it means to trust God even in the midst of suffering.

Review: “We don’t have to go looking for it. It will come and find us. Sooner or later, suffering at a catastrophic level will wreck our lives. Paul Tripp understands that personally. He also understands the gospel personally. His new book does not trivialize our sufferings with glib formulas. This wise book leads us deeper into the gospel of the cross and closer to the Man of Sorrows himself.” ―Ray Ortlund, Lead Pastor, Immanuel Church, Nashville, Tennessee

Another book worth taking a look at is by noted author, educator, and grief counselor, Dr. Alan Wolfelt. Grief Day by Day: Simple, Everyday Practices to Help Yourself Survive…and Thrive was published in late 2018 and offers answers to the questions that plague the hearts of those who are grieving. How am I supposed to cope? What should I do with these thoughts and feelings? How can I both grieve and still live with hope and meaning?

Hopefully, one or more of these books will speak to your heart and give you comfort and peace on your journey through grief in 2019.

The Power of Meaningful Ceremony: Reflecting on George H.W. Bush’s Funeral

By | Current Events

“People who take the time and make the effort to create meaningful funeral arrangements when someone loved dies often end up making new arrangements in their own lives. They remember and reconnect with what is most meaningful to them in life…strengthen bonds with family members and friends. They emerge changed, more authentic and purposeful. The best funerals remind us how we should live.” – Dr. Alan Wolfelt

December 5, 2018, was declared a National Day of Mourning as millions watched the televised final tribute to our 41st President, George H.W. Bush. The preplanned service had moments of heartfelt emotion, laughter, and tears. From this special memorial tribute, we can take away key lessons about what makes a healing and meaningful funeral experience. From the touching photos of Sully the service dog to the emotional moment when former senator Bob Dole gave a final salute to his friend and fellow World War II veteran, the funeral was rich with ritual, tradition, and meaning.

Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a nationally respected grief counselor and death care educator, tells us that there are several important elements to include in a meaningful and healing funeral ceremony. These elements are necessary to facilitate the six needs that a funeral fulfills: 1) acknowledge the reality of the death, 2) embrace the pain of the loss, 3) remember the person who died, 4) develop a new self-identity, 5) search for meaning, and 6) receive ongoing support from others.

Let’s look at how these important elements were utilized to honor and remember George H.W. Bush in a way that was meaningful for his family, his friends, and his fellow Americans.

Music

Music sets the tone of a funeral and brings emotions to the forefront. In fact, one of the purposes of a funeral is to allow mourners to grieve together. In many ways, music says what words cannot. George H.W. Bush personally requested that Michael W. Smith sing “Friends are Friends Forever,” which was a touching tribute to a dear friend. He also was a huge fan of country music, so it was appropriate and touching that Reba McEntire sang in his honor during a funeral ceremony at his home church in Houston, Texas.

Readings

Readings add another facet to a meaningful service. They are another way to invite mourners to express their emotions and bring the unique spirit of the one who has died to life. As part of the ceremony, several of former president Bush’s granddaughters read passages of the Bible. As a man of strong and lifelong faith, the reading of the Bible gave both hope and comfort to his family while highlighting the personal faith of George H.W. Bush.

Viewing/Visitation/Reception

The visitation is a time for people to gather to express sympathy and support and to pay their respects. Throughout the several days that encompassed Bush’s funeral ceremony, there were several opportunities for visitation. From Monday afternoon to Wednesday morning, Bush’s casket lay in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol building, allowing thousands from the public to pay their respects. After the events in Washington, D.C., the casket was transported to Texas, where Bush lay in repose at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church. Both of these opportunities allowed all mourners the opportunity to acknowledge the reality of the death and pay tribute to Bush’s life.

Eulogy/Remembrance

The eulogy is the single most important aspect of a funeral service. It is the time to acknowledge and affirm the significance of the life lived. A number of individuals gave eulogies at George H.W. Bush’s funeral, including his son, George W. Bush, and his grandson, George P. Bush. He was remembered by his son as “a great, noble man, and the best father a son or daughter could have,” and his grandson said that “it’s the honor of a lifetime to share his name.”

Symbols

Symbols, or symbolic acts, offer a focus point for the bereaved as well as a sense of comfort. In the case of Bush’s funeral, one of the key symbols was the American flag. It symbolized the life he dedicated to the service of his country. The presence of the military and their ritual actions to honor Bush, a World War II veteran, are also part of the symbolism. Additionally, the fact that Bush’s family wore black clothing and chose to have a memorial at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church are symbols in action.

 Gathering

The gathering is an opportunity for people to come together after the funeral service to share stories and to support each other. With former president Bush’s funeral, this aspect was displayed on a much larger scale than is usual. While he lay in state at the U.S. Capitol, people gathered and shared stories and offered support to each other. Also of note, all living presidents and first ladies gathered for Bush’s ceremony in a rare moment. And of course, Bush’s family and friends had many opportunities to gather together, recall memories, and comfort one another before and after the service.

Actions 

And finally, by inviting others into action, you engage mourners and invite them to put their grief into motion. Action can take place in many ways. For Bush’s funeral, having attendees stand with hand over heart as the coffin was brought into the church and sing hymns are actions that invite mourners into the grieving process. And the processional train ride in the 4141 locomotive to Bush’s final resting place brought together mourners and supporters who lined the train track, offering their support to the grieving Bush family and their respect to George H.W. Bush.

When all the elements of a meaningful funeral come together, they create a powerful, emotional, and healing tribute to a life well-lived. In the case of former president Bush, the entire funeral experience was planned in advance and allowed family members, friends, civic leaders, and regular, everyday American citizens to join together to honor the memory of a good man who loved his God and his country with all his heart. Thank you, 41, for your integrity and your service.

The Value of Vigils

By | Current Events, Grief/Loss

Things happen in this world that break our hearts. In many cases, there’s nothing we personally could have done to prevent the events from occurring. Most recently, we’ve seen a number of shootings occur across the country – Brooklyn, Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton. People – old and young – lose their lives, and in the midst of it all, as human beings, we must stand together and mourn together. This is why candlelight and prayer vigils are necessary and helpful.

The grief journey is long and hard. On some days, we feel horrible, while on other days, we feel bad for feeling okay. All of this is part of the journey toward reconciliation. Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a nationally respected grief educator and counselor, says, “We, as human beings, never resolve our grief, but instead become reconciled to it…You don’t get to go around or above your grief. You must go through it. And while you are going through it, you must express it if you are to reconcile yourself to it.” In other words, we should not seek a resolution to our grief, but instead, we must pursue reconciliation. We will not “get over” what we’ve lost or go back to our “old normal.” However, we can find our “new normal” and renewed purpose and meaning.

In many ways, this healthy human need to grieve is one of the many reasons why attending a vigil may be helpful to your grief journey, especially after an expected or traumatic event. Here are 5 more reasons why attending a vigil may assist you in your grief.

Vigils Provide a Time of Remembrance

First of all, a vigil is about remembering the person or people who have died. Everyone takes time to intentionally dwell on and recall each life and mourn their loss. Often, close loved ones speak and share memories and anecdotes. These stories draw us in and give us a glimpse into the person’s life that we may not have had before. As a result, we feel closer to the one who has died and can mourn in a more personal way.

Vigils Are an Invitation to Action

Taking part in symbolic actions has grief-healing benefits. Dr. Wolfelt says, “When mourners light a candle…they are provided with a physical means of expressing their grief.” Mourning is the outward expression of an internal grief. In order to heal and find a way to move forward, we must allow our grief expression and give motion to our feelings. Attending a vigil or funeral, lighting a candle, or writing a grief journal are all examples of putting motion to grief.

Vigils Affirm Our Values and Beliefs

A third benefit to vigils is that they provide a time for us to affirm our values and beliefs. We come together with a common purpose: to mourn the loss of someone precious. During this time, we also remember that we value life, we all know the pain of loss, and we all believe in a better world. In a moving speech at a candlelight service just after 9/11, Dave Frohnmayer put it this way, this is “a time to understand even more clearly what we believe…and proudly to affirm, live and act upon those beliefs.”

Vigils Are an Expression of Our Love and Emotions

Loss unleashes a variety of emotions: confusion, yearning, anger, sadness, guilt, regret. We should not feel ashamed of our emotions; we feel what we feel. Many times, society as a whole frowns upon open expressions of grief, but this attitude is flawed. We are human. We feel, and we feel deeply. It would be unnatural not to grieve. The vigil offers an opportunity to move toward embracing your pain so that you can begin to process the loss that you feel.

Vigils Provide an Opportunity to Offer Support and Stand in Unity

Finally, a vigil brings us together as one people, one community. It is an opportunity to offer and receive support, which is absolutely vital to healthy healing. Dr. Wolfelt puts it this way, “The quality and quantity of understanding support you get during your grief journey will have a major influence on your capacity to heal.” So, a vigil provides us the ability to join with others, to stand in unity, and to mourn the loss together. We are not meant to live life alone, and our journey with grief is no different.

If you’ve lost someone to an unexpected or traumatic event, please know that your grief is normal and to be expected. Do not feel ashamed of whatever it is that you feel. Instead, do the work of grieving. Attend a candlelight or prayer vigil. Talk to people. Find a support group. Write down what you’re thinking and feeling. Paint. Dance. Whatever it is that you need to do to express your emotions in a healthy way, do it! The process will not be easy, and there will be days when you just want to give up. But if you keep moving forward, you will one day find that the intense pangs of grief are less frequent, and you have renewed hope for the future.