Thursday, June 30, 2016

Honoring Heroes-If You Can Keep it

"...if we don't know the stories of America, how can we know America?" (If You Can Keep It, Metaxas, 131)

One of my greatest thrills when traveling is seeing statues of historic people. They are so regal and grand and they evoke memories of stories I've read about them in biographies and history books. One of my favorite places to go is Lafayette Park in Washington DC, because I am a huge Lafayette fan. Why? Well, first of all, when we first traveled to Virginia from Texas, every historical place we visited talked about Lafayette. Hmmm, I was certainly hearing more about him in Virginia than I ever read in my history books. Who was this man? After reading a biography of him, I became his fan. In fact, I became more than a fan. I became...intrigued. Why would a frenchman, a  marquis, who was wealthy and had everything he could ever want at his fingertips, risk all to come to America to fight for our freedom? Because, he was inspired by our Declaration of Independence to fight for American freedom. Thus, his name has become synonymous with freedom...and he became a friend to America.

Lafayette, Washington DC

When he came to America he reported to the Continental Congress. When he told them he'd serve without pay, they made him a major general! Unlike other frenchmen who came to serve, Lafayette didn't lord his military training over them. Instead, he submitted himself and fully committed himself to General Washington. "I am here to learn, not to teach." Lafayette and Washington soon bonded with a father/son relationship. Long story short, Lafayette was a huge influence in helping us win the American Revolution.

General Rochambeau
General Rochambeau

Also at Lafayette Square is the statue of General Comte de Rochambeau. After France allied with America in the revolution, Rochambeau led the French forces alongside the Continental Army. Even though he outranked General Washington in time and experience, he graciously submitted to Washington. Respectfully and subtly, he'd suggest strategies. Washington was intent to conquer New York and wasn't quite clearly seeing the fortunate opportunity arising in Yorktown, Virginia. Rochambeau, however, saw it, so he subtly encouraged Washington, who was always one to listen to his advisors. Troops were quickly moved from near New York City to Yorktown, where Lafayette and his dragoons had cornered Cornwallis at a deep sea port. Meanwhile in a miraculous sense of timing, French Admiral de Grasse arrived at the mouth of the Chesapeake where he effectively blocked and defeated British ships from entering to to rescue Cornwallis. Cornwallis was trapped by land and by water. After a seige, Cornwallis surrendered. The war was effectively over. What a story! And what makes it more amazing, it's true!   

Recently I read a chapter about venerating heroes in Eric Metaxas' book, If You Can Keep It.  He helped me see these heroic statues quite differently from their basic historic and even artistic interpretations.  He helped me make connections to our republic, past and present. He caused me to pause...and deeply consider how we honor heroes today, as they did in the past, and why that is significant. Why is this so important? Because today our society is more about denigrating heroes than venerating them.

In regards to celebrating the hero, "this is something that has fallen out of favor in our nation, to our deepest detriment. As the author of biographies and of great men and women I have seen firsthand just how deeply encouraging and inspiring the stories of heroes can be." (Metaxas, 116)

One of the stories Metaxas shares is from his alma mater of Yale University and their local hero, Nathan Hale.  In beautiful poignancy the full heroic story of who Hale was unfolds and thus... 1914, while the world was descending into the First World War, a magnificent statue of Hale was dedicated outside Connecticut Hall, the very dorm he had inhabited on Yale's Old Campus. The Georgian brick building was built in 1753 and still stands there. It is where he slept and studied Hebrew and where he argued and laughed with his fellow classmates. And in the grand tradition of memorializing the great, the famous artist Bela Lyon Pratt, himself a Yale graduate, was in 1912 commissioned to create the sculpture. He was at that time one of the nation's most highly regarded sculptors...A copy of the statue, dedicated in 1948, also stands in front of the Department of Justice in Washington DC. (Metaxas, 122-121)

This statue poignantly represents Nathan Hale at the very moment he said, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

Nathan Hale
Nathan Hale, Washington DC

At the base of the statue reads..."In the performance of his duty his life a sacrifice to his country's liberty at New York. September 22, 1776"

Nathan Hale2
Nathan Hale, Washington DC

That statue was put there to help Americans-and Yale men in particular-to think of the heroic sacrifices that had been made for them, so that they would be grateful for those sacrifices and so that they would themselves be inspired to similar sacrifices. In fact, three years after the statue was erected, young Americans, many of them Yale men, were  called up to serve their country in the First World War, and for most of them the statue would have served as inspiration. (Metaxas, 126)

Then Metaxas stunningly shares the shocking story of how this statue was reduced to a bobblehead doll. The full story is in If You Can Keep It. How could anyone make sport of a man who was about to face execution? Sadly, this is becoming common in our society.

" latter decades we have swung so far in the other direction that venerating heroes, which used to be part of our common vocabulary, is no longer a language we speak or really understand. But this has served to undermine the very idea of greatness and the idea of the heroic...Denigrating heroes, or simply failing to venerate them, has a cynical and toxic effect on the young generation, and we have now had fifty years in which we have neglected this 'habit of the heart' so vital to our free way of life." (Metaxas, 121)
In If You Can Keep It, this and other thoughts to consider are shared. In so doing, Metaxas shares more stories of more greatness of the men pictured below...

Washington Houdon in capitol in Richmond
General Washington, Richmond, Virginia

"That is the proper role of the heroic, to call us higher than ourselves. To call us to fight not merely for what is ours but for what should belong to everyone-for what is right." (Metaxas, 147)

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln, Washington DC

Last weekend I went to Gettysburg. I've seen all the statues before...this time I considered them from new angles of meaning. 

If You Can Keep It is available for purchase at your favorite bookstore, including through Amazon. By the way, I receive no commissions. I did, however, receive a free copy to review before the launch date which was June 14th. I blog because I'm passionate about this topic and I've been sharing bits and pieces of this information over the years. Because many of my readers have asked me questions about resources for this topic before, I want to make If You Can Keep It known. It's highly relevant for today, for adults as well as students. You can read more about it at Metaxas' website.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Memories from Monticello

After a full day at Monticello's reenactment of the British Invasion of 1781, we simply relaxed and enjoyed the grounds. This place is quite beautiful. Thomas Jefferson had quite the imagination creating it. In fact, he was always puttering with his ideas so that the plantation was always "under construction" mode. I like it a lot as it is now...

2-Carolynn and me






8-Ben 2

9-Carolynn and me

What a view! I love the mountains. If only we could stay here forever.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Thomas Jefferson and Gardens at Monticello

After lunch at Michie Tavern we arrived back to a much quieter Monticello, as expected. The reenactment of the British Invasion of 1781 was over, the tents were down, the horses were gone. Our goal was simply to enjoy the lovely afternoon on the mountain top. The weather was gorgeous. Although it was a warm day, there was a gentle breeze to cool us. However to our surprise, we saw Thomas Jefferson chatting with some of the guests.


He remembered us (from many past visits) and shook our hands.


My daughter asked him if he was truly *that* calm when he heard the news that the British were coming. He confirmed that he was, indeed, *that* calm!

He discussed the cultivation of grapes. Despite our many successes over the years, this year was not going well. Jefferson gave him  much information and history.


As he left, he told us to enjoy his home and gardens!


And we did!
























A few more photos in the next post since this one was so heavy. Stay tuned! 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Concerning Moral Leaders-If You Can Keep It

The power chapter in If You Can Keep It by Eric Metaxas held me riveted. I've dubbed this the power chapter because without the key topic, we ultimately fail and fall. The topic...morality in our leaders.

If You Can Keep it By Eric Metaxas

Metaxas opens his chapter by discussing basic qualities important for our leaders, such as competence, experience, intelligence and an ability to "get the job done." (Metaxas, 150)

For example, government leaders need to be well versed in the Constitution, since it is the law of the land. They need to understand the 18th century definitions of the words in the Constitution, because that is how the Founding Fathers expected it to be interpreted. Experience obviously goes far, as well as providing "the proof that is in the pudding."

Concerning morality, I'll let Metaxas speak...

"We need leaders who themselves love the country and the freedoms of this country more than they love themselves and their own careers or reputations or 'legacies'." (Metaxas, 153)

"...the character of our leaders is important because it affects everyone..." (Metaxas, 154)

"When the founders were advocating for liberty, their single-most quoted source was the Bible, which of course tells us something about their thoughts on the importance of virtue." (Metaxas, 155)

"...the second-most-quoted source was the French political philosopher Montesquieu, who wrote 'bad examples can be worse than crimes...More states have perished because of a violation of their mores than because of a violation of their Laws.'" (Metaxas, 155)

Metaxas uses the word picture of parenting to explain this concept, that children are affected by the behavior of their parents. That reminds me of another word picture that I discovered when my children came into the world. It is that of a mirror. Whenever my children did something wrong, all I could do initially was see myself. Why? Because more and more I saw my children as a  mirror, reflecting back behaviors, good or bad, that they had learned from me. It was always a humbling moment that I needed to change me, and apologize to them, before I could help them see that what they did was wrong.

"The founding generation understood this well and often looked back to the Romans for examples of civic virtue." (Metaxas, 155) And thus begins the fascinating story of Cincinnatus, a virtuous Roman after whom George Washington patterned himself...which unfolds into one of my favorite stories of Washington, which Metaxas tells in a most moving way. As always tears welled up in my eyes, like the men in the room with Washington.

You've got to get Metaxas' book for all the stories...but I will share this. Washington's speech (that is recorded in If You Can Keep It) was full of the following words. As you read the list, think of the number of times you've either heard this or seen it happen in our day:
  • reputation
  • patient virtue
  • dignity
  • glory
  • sacred honor (Metaxas, 165)
"These words and phrases are most striking to us in that they have disappeared, generally speaking, and not just as words but as concepts." (Metaxas, 165)

Can it be that the further we have strayed from thinking of such things, the further we have strayed from what is necessary for ordered liberty bequeathed to us by our founders? And that in neglecting the cultivation of these virtues have we unwittingly undermined our entire way of life? (Metaxas, 165)

From before Plutarch wrote his Lives, human beings have known that heroes inspire us to do what is right when temptation would tempt us otherwise. So in a government like ours, leaders who exemplify virtue do much to help those they lead in self-government. (Metaxas, 167)

But...what if our leaders aren't exemplifying virtue? What can we do about it?

Thus begins a mini-biography of the heroic William Wilberforce, told in Metaxas' dramatically spell-binding style.  (For more read Metaxas' full biography, which I reviewed here.)   In this synopsis Metaxas shares some great insight for us from the life of Wilberforce who struggled to end the slave trade in the late 18th and early 19th century Britain.

Wilberforce understood the idea that the law itself is a 'teacher' and will lead people toward what it prescribes and away from what it prohibits. But he knew that a debased culture cannot be stemmed through legislation alone. Indeed, if one wishes to make certain laws, one must change the culture first, else those laws will never be passed. (Metaxas, 173)

And that is exactly what we've been talking about through Metaxas' book, the difference between the 18th century worldview and the 21st century worldview. do we do that? How do we return to an 18th century mindset of virtue? Again, we look at Metaxas' suggestion through the life of Wilberforce.

"He became known not as a pious moralist but as someone who seemed to really express love toward the political enemies who were everywhere around him, especially on the bitter issue of the slave trade." (Metaxas, 174)

Oh, and by the way, after many, many, many years, Wilberforce turned the tide of the culture into one of greed to philanthropy...and the slave trade came to an end! (Metaxas details it all!)

...what is most important in this issue of the character of a nation's leaders is not merely that the virtuous behavior of leaders encourages a culture of virtue in general-however terribly important that is-which in turn enables the people to govern themselves more effectively. What is more important is that if at any point in a republic of self-government the people begin to distrust their leaders as somehow corrupt or as more concerned with themselves than with those they serve, the whole skein of self-government begins to unravel and is fatally threatened. (Metaxas, 176)

Thus we find our country unraveling today over perhaps the most bitterly contested election of all time. Not that this is specifically addressed in Metaxas' book since it was obviously written and published before America somehow ended up with the two least moral candidates to consider for the presidency in the history of America.

Now what? How do we vote? For me personally, I know who I won't vote for. Hillary has proven that she does not embrace a single idea that the Founding Fathers stood for. A vote for Hillary guarantees the loss of freedom. She does not stand for freedom for America. Remember Benghazi. Shameful. Secure e-mails. Not. These and more guarantee the proof that we are not safe under her rule because after all, she seeks big government, which is tyranny.

Today the world headlines have announced that Britain has voted for self-government. They are tired of being a pawn at the hands of a few elite making all their decisions.

Back to America and today...looking ahead to November. That leaves me with three choices: not to vote (which guarantees Hillary), vote third party (which guarantees Hillary), vote Trump (ack!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) I don't like him either. He's certainly not moral either. He has no tact.

I am not the only voter who shares this quandary. Most definitely this a  heavy burden that is on the shoulders of those who who deeply and compassionately care for freedom and virtue. Upon our choices hinges either the guaranteed loss of our republic, and therefore our freedoms, or perhaps, many say, that there is a hope...for hope.

This is definitely not a year for bragging about whom we are voting for. Instead this is definitely the year (though it should be done every election year) to humbly pray for guidance, to humbly pray for our nation to seek virtue, to humbly pray for good. Also it is the time to be a Wilberforce and influence our culture with lovingkindness to embrace good, to guide them to see good, to hold ourselves to a higher standard.

Also many who deeply care for virtue and freedom are arguing for doing the difficult choice because of the hope of keeping the door of freedom open a bit for the greater hope for freedom in the future.

As I've considered that position, I'm reminded of another time, two times actually, when our Founding Fathers faced a crisis over morality. During the drafting of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the Founding Fathers hotly contested the ending of slavery. The southernmost states held firm for their states' rights to own slaves. Their northern neighbors insisted that slavery must end because they indeed saw this as the moral issue of the day. Even Virginia's delegates insisted that slavery must end. Slavery was absolutely immoral. Yet without 100% agreement among the delegates, they could not push forward with the Declaration of Independence in 1776 (and again at the Constitutional Convention in 1787) and all would be lost. Finally a compromise was reached. Because the southern most states refused to budge, their northern neighbors reluctantly left the slave issue as it was. They hoped that if the door to freedom was opened a bit now for the general population, the rest of the population would eventually receive their freedoms. At the end of the 18th century slavery was on the way out. It had already come to an end without legislation in the northern states because it was not productive. Quite frankly, neither was it productive in the south, and the founders knew that. They were all in debt. They honestly thought it would soon die out, and rather soon at that. Also they were not capable of freeing slaves of their own choice due to old laws in the books in their colonies/states. I think the Great Awakening later in the 18th century changed their thinking on all that. So they hoped for the future of slavery dying out on its own. However they had no idea that the invention of the cotton gin was around the corner. Eventually freedom for slaves finally came but it took an awful war between the states.

Then there is for morality by writing in a worthy candidate. Believe me, I'm deeply considering that one too. 

Will any of us keep our freedoms? Will the right of self-government perish? Can we keep it? There are many things to consider. We must not decide this lightly. Most of all, we must pray for guidance and for our country and for our electorate and candidates to change to faith and virtue.

If You Can Keep It is available for purchase at your favorite bookstore, including through Amazon. By the way, I receive no commissions. I did, however, receive a free copy to review before the launch date which was June 14th. I blog because I'm passionate about this topic and I've been sharing bits and pieces of this information over the years. Because many of my readers have asked me questions about resources for this topic before, I want to make If You Can Keep It known. It's highly relevant for today, for adults as well as students. You can read more about it at Metaxas' website.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Visiting Walton's Mountain...and Historic Clothing

I grew up with this show every Thursday night because it was the one television show my mom insisted on watching. As curious as I was for myself, since the Walton's and I are practically neighbors, I wanted to do this for  my mom too! Walton's Mountain is just a couple of hours south of us and makes a lovely drive on a summery day. After driving south of Charlottesville we looked for the turnoff, which is quite a ways south of Charlottesville actually. We always think we've missed it but we have to  just keep on driving. Finally we found it and turned onto a mountain road, which is very well maintained. While following the Rockfish River through the woods and further onto the mountain, I imagined that we were actually driving John Walton's 1923 Ford Truck. (That's a guess from the link that I found. And of course the real truck was black.)
Eventually I spied the watering hole. Would Reverend Fordwick (played by John Ritter) show up accidentally drunk? (I'll never forget this very first performance I ever saw from John Ritter who later became famous for many other roles.) On this hot day many kids were swimming in the river. I had a tough time getting a picture without including them!


Then we passed by a quarry (more on that tomorrow) and came to the crossroads...


Surprise! Right there was the Walton house! I never imagined it would be right at the crossroads! The house itself is now open for tours. However we did not tour this house. It is not decorated like it was on the Waltons. I think it's more true to when it was Earl Hamner's home. Also it's an extra charge. When we first arrived we didn't even know this was open for tours. I assumed it was closed because that was what I had read on the internet when I planned this trip. We drove, instead, up the road a short ways to the high school where the Hamners attended school. (Earl Hamner is the creator of The Waltons, based on his family. John Boy represents Earl Hamner. More on that tomorrow.)


The highschool was decorated as much as possible like the television show, going all the way into making them look like stage sets. They even had camera equipment set up, which I thought was pretty cool. Now I wish I had pulled back a bit on the perspective so we could see the cameras that were used. However at the moment I wanted to remember the Waltons and pretend I was in their house.


I'll never forget John Boy churning butter while eating an apple on Christmas Eve, in The Homecoming. He disobediently brought it into the living room to join the family to listen to the radio skit with the family.


Can you believe that they put the Baldwin Ladies' recipe making machine in the same room as Olivia Walton's kitchen????? I was flabbergasted! Mama had choice words about the recipe, and of course the little old ladies had no idea what "the recipe" actually was, and of course the men folk didn't mind a nip now and then. Apparently there was a huge brew-ha-ha in the local community about this...which is why the Walton house and gift shop have absolutely no affiliation with this high school/museum. When we asked the little old ladies at this museum about the house, they clammed up. We found out that there is some controversy that has to do with the "recipe making" machine being in Mama's kitchen! (This machine is actual works and was donated by one of the locals.)


As fans can tell, the rooms are not an exact recreations from the television show. These items from the 1930's were donated by local residents and then staged to look as much like the show as possible.


Oh, how a radio such as this played center stage in some of the story lines...especially as the Waltons listened to the news, hoping John Walton had not been on the bus that had overturned. (The Homecoming)


I always wondered why there was never any mention of nearby historic neighbor, Thomas Jefferson. Nor did I understand why John Boy did not attend the University of Virginia in nearby Charlottesville. More on that tomorrow.


In a separate room were lots of extra artifacts. My favorite was this wedding gown from the 1930's.


Then we went to Ike Godsy's Store, also located in this museum. It was filled with all kinds of fascinating assortments...and also served as the gift shop.


On the one wall were all the post office boxes. Nearby where lots of post cards. I bought two, one for me and one for my mom. I wrote a note on both and addressed them, then took them to the cashier to purchase. She added a stamp to them and mailed them for me. She said they'd arrive with a special postmark. I will share that tomorrow!


This is a daybook, which I found intriguing because daybooks are highly popular in the 18th century. This one is from a General Store in Howardsville, Virginia dated from 1956-1957.



War rations...I've heard so much about them but have rarely ever seen them. The Waltons did go into the WWII years.


Need pincurls?


Toys...that the Walton children were rarely able to afford!


Hats galore!


Just waiting for the Baldwin sisters to come in to try some on...and then walk off without buying a single one!!! (I couldn't believe that scene from The Homecoming!)




Fabric! Not sure if these are from the 1930's, because I could buy some of those types of prints today quite easily. Also I am starting to collect retro prints. Did I tell you all that I won a quilt contest last summer? One of my prizes was some retro prints from the 20's...which are quite different from these. Hmm....


Then we went to the gift shop below the house and then walked around a bit to...


...the Baptist Church where Grandpa rang the bell to welcome in Christmas.


More on the Walton's, Thomas Jefferson, and Earl Hamner tomorrow!