Friday, June 3, 2016

The Constitution as an Action Verb-If You Can Keep It

A few years ago we got to visit Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was a thrilling experience because I've always wanted to visit the famous site of the Continental Congress...

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Assembly Room in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, PA


of the Constitutional Convention (they met in the same room as the Continental Congress did, above)...

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Assembly Room in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA


of Benjamin Franklin's famous quote...

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Independence Hall, Philadelphia, PA


In September 1787 as the convention ended, Franklin was walking out of the statehouse when a lady approached him and asked, "Well, doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?" He replied in typical Franklin manner, "A republic, madam-if you can keep it."

And thus begins the newest book from Eric Metaxas, If You Can Keep It.

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In fact, here is a video of Metaxas speaking to students at Founders Classical Academy in Lewisville, Texas. In it he shares that he was originally going to write the book for students, but the publisher wanted the book for a wider audience, which is a great idea! Public schools have left too much history out of their classrooms for decades, so all of us can benefit! The material in this book will be new to many readers, although the information itself has been around for quite a bit of time, sadly becoming buried by the sands of time.

"If you can keep it." What does it mean? Thus, Metaxas queries the reader, with a promise to discuss that through the book and provide direction. As he began his discourse in the introduction, I began to see an action verb forming in my mind of the Constitution, where as before I had been thinking of it strictly as a noun. Even though I personally knew it was important for all of us as citizens to do our duty, the book brings a fresh discourse to the conversation.

So many of us focus on wanting to live in peace and contentment with our loved ones, which is a worthy goal. Problem is, that quiet life seems elusive when big government comes knocking at our door. As much as we all want to run away from the madness, our presence can turn the tide. The Founding Fathers faced the same thing. But every time they settled into peace and contentment at home with their families, duty whisked them away.

If Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and the other delegates had stayed home, the Second Continental Congress would never have forged a Declaration of Independence. 

If George Washington had stayed home, we never would have had the clever fox using his wiles against the British in the American Revolution and setting the moral pace for his army.

If Lafayette, Ben Franklin and other dignitaries had stayed home, France may never have entered the war to help America. Surely, we never would have won without the help of France.

If Washington, Franklin, Madison and the other  delegates had stayed home in 1787, we would never have had the Constitution.

If Washington had stayed home (he got called away a lot!) he never would have been our first president. And how we needed him to set the example.

In the 18th century, these gentlemen were not forging political careers. They had absolutely no desire for that. Instead they were following a sense of duty to their fellow man. (More on this in a later blog post of a later chapter.) But we only got our republic because representatives from each of the colonies/states came together to hammer out details of something that had never been done before...self-government.

Self-government means that we are to take up our duty to call when needed. To vote. To be informed. To be an example. To take a stand.

"It is not enough for us to merely exist as a people, doing the minimum of simply obeying our laws and minding our business." (p4)

The Constitution given to us that 1787 was a sufficient beginning. It was the foundation of the United States of America, but merely existing-and merely obeying the laws that stem from that Constitution-was hardly what the founders had in mind...It is in fact an idea of great genius and is the main operating principle by which this nation has stayed alive and has expanded its freedoms for over two centuries. But once 'we the people' begin to forget that, and cease to do what is necessary as Americans, it all begins to fall apart. And alas and alack, we have gone a long way toward forgetting that and toward ceasing to do what is necessary as Americans. We are in desperate, indeed urgent, need of a primer on these vital things. (p5)

The Founding Fathers knew that "A government in which the people would govern themselves would be fragile and would require the people's attention in a way that no other government would." In a monarchy, people don't have a choice. "But because what the founders created was a republic, the very opposite would be true.  It would be-'we the people.'" (p9)

"But the main point is that each of us who call ourselves Americans has a great duty to keep that promise-and if we don't do our duty toward keeping that promise, our nation will cease to exist in any real sense. If that sounds overly dramatic, please keep reading." (p3)

Yes! Please do read this book! I highly recommend this book. It is meant for a time such as this! But there is hope! And Benjamin Franklin even had hope! This is the very chair in which George Washington sat each day of the convention, as he oversaw the proceedings. At the top of the chair is the engraving of a sun. The proceedings were arduous. The heat was stifling. The delegates were at times irritable yet determined to hammer out the details. At the end of the sessions, James Madison recorded Benjamin Franklin as saying, "I have often looked at that behind the president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now I... know that it is a rising...sun."

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The Rising Sun Chair, Independence Hall, Philadelphia, PA


I've read several books on this topic before, that are very left-brained. They are completely logical and deal with facts. That is an excellent and necessary thing. Metaxas though writes to both sides of the brain.  There are the parts where he shares the facts of history, albeit in a friendly, conversational tone.   Then there are the parts where he crafts with his artistry with words, weaving the facts into our souls, showing our imagination the hope for the future if we do our duty to preserve the Constitution and our country. Mini-biographies abound in the book. He even discusses poetry, art and stories. 

It is our duty to consider... "If you can keep it." "If I can keep it." "If we can keep it." We must be ever diligent...and this book will help us to the task!

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Can We Keep It? Yes!


If We Can Keep It is a book that I highly recommended for kids of all ages, from 9-99. I personally know that  some brilliant 9 year old homeschool students could read this! Actually, my 8 year old nephew could read this!!! It would make excellent study for government for homeschool high school students, though public school and private schools would benefit from this too, as well as all adults! As much as I knew going into to the reading of this book, I was learned to think about old ideas in a new way. It is available for preorder at Amazon now. It will be on the shelves on the 14th!     

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