The Heritage Foundation's 2020 President's Essay
by Kay C. James
Newt Gingrich is not only one of the best-known and respected speakers of the U.S. House of Representatives, he’s also a noted historian and longtime friend of The Heritage Foundation. At a time when the nation is deeply divided and many Americans seem willing to throw away our future to politicians promising a socialist utopia, he has come up with a truly exceptional idea. It’s a plan for rekindling a deep sense of patriotism in the American people, for creating a profoundly unifying understanding of their shared history, and for helping them to realize how truly blessed they are to have inherited the most successful experiment in self-government the world has ever seen.
The Speaker’s plan couldn’t come at a more critical time in our history. The state of American civics education is truly lamentable. Too many citizens lack a basic understanding of our country’s founding at the same time left-wing politicians ignorantly declare that believing America is exceptional among nations isn’t about acknowledging historical fact but rather about advocating xenophobic nationalism.
His state of affairs has led to generations of Americans who lack any appreciation for the beauty that so many others around the world clearly see in America. It leaves many susceptible to manipulation by politicians only interested in increasing their own power and their ideological accomplices in the media. Others succumb to the indoctrination of academics who poison their minds with disdain for the principles this country represents.
Yet, we’re somehow surprised when our children and grandchildren tell us that America is the cause of most of the world’s problems, from poverty to wars to global warming. We’re surprised when young people riot in our streets, topple statues of our Founding Fathers, and burn our flag. And we’re surprised when our citizens support socialist policies that will inevitably destroy their own freedoms.
In what could be an antidote to much of this, Speaker Gingrich proposes a year-long celebration around the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 2026. His proposal includes an entire year of thematic events and learning experiences that civic organizations, schools, governments, and families can use to start conversations and build a more profound appreciation for the most exceptional nation on earth and the document that started it all.
Such a celebration presents an incredible opportunity to do what many of our educational institutions fail to do: educate citizens about the crushing hand of tyranny and the irrepressible yearning for freedom that led to the American founding, the tremendous sacrifices of lives and treasure to achieve independence, and the lasting principles that created the unique nation that has been passed on to us.
Such a celebration would also serve as a much-needed repudiation of the anti-history taught to our young people, such as The New York Times’ 1619 Project. The 1619 retelling of America’s history makes the outrageous claim that the colonists didn’t fight a revolution over a lack of democratic representation — as every generation of Americans has been taught, until now — but to preserve slavery in America. This and the many other falsehoods of the 1619 Project only serve to divide the nation further, promoting a culture of victimhood for modern-day blacks and a culture of blame for modern-day whites.
Despite the fact that the project has been thoroughly debunked by prominent historians, its curriculum is currently being taught in some 4,500 K-12 classrooms around the country.
In the inspiring proposal that follows, Speaker Gingrich wears his historian hat and reminds us just how incredible the Declaration of Independence was for its time and still is today.
On the 250th anniversary of this extraordinary document, America needs to reflect on how significantly this single piece of paper changed the trajectory of not just this nation, but of the world. The lessons that resulted from our great experiment in freedom and free-market capitalism spread around the globe and helped raise billions out of abject poverty. America’s role as peacekeeper, conqueror of tyrants, exporter of freedom, first responder in worldwide natural disasters, and mentor of free market prosperity has impacted the world like no other nation has before it.
If we fail to understand this incredible history, to teach it, to honor it, and to ensure that it remains part of the American DNA — well then, we’re already seeing where that path is leading us.
On the other hand, if we know our history, faithfully pass it on to our progeny, and instill in them the will to preserve the nation it has given us, then we will ensure that America will forever be that beacon of freedom, opportunity, and prosperity for the world — one that never stops promising an even better tomorrow for countless generations to come.
THE 1776 OPPORTUNITY: A 2026 YEAR-LONG CELEBRATION
by Newt Gingrich
July 4, 2026, will be the 250th anniversary (semiquincentennial) of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This anniversary creates a great opportunity to educate Americans, and indeed the world, about the unique nature of the American system, the revolutionary roots of its origin, and the history of the unique leaders who came together to declare their independence, establish a moral basis for freedom, and launch a nation defined by its exceptionalism.
There are three powerful reasons for creating a “250th Anniversary Celebration.” First, it is the opportunity to drive home the core principles of American exceptionalism. The Declaration of Independence is at the heart of the American sense of individual authority and responsibility. The remarkably self-reliant and optimistic American popular culture came into being precisely because we believe that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In many ways, it is the Declaration of Independence and victory in the war to which it led, that created the remarkably successful society about which Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in his classic work Democracy in America. Renewing this personal sense of American exceptionalism is a key step toward creating the entrepreneurial drive and creativity we will need to compete with a totalitarian Chinese dictatorship and to help solve problems at home and around the world.
Second, at the national level, this celebration can become a significant enough event that it can be developed into an immersive experience for the American people to reconnect with American history. During the 200th anniversary celebration in 1976, there was substantial television coverage, including a 12-hour syndicated entertainment program, The Great American Celebration, hosted by Ed McMahon that aired on CBS the evening of July 3; In Celebration of the United States, 16 hours of coverage hosted by Walter Cronkite on CBS; and The Glorious Fourth, 10 hours of coverage hosted by John Chancellor and David Brinkley on NBC.
In our multimedia era, an amazing number of events, activities, and interactive games, etc., could be developed to give people a dramatic experience of what it took to become independent, and what the moral, spiritual, and legal nature of that independence was and is.
Third, this is a real opportunity to communicate to the entire world the remarkable difference in moral authority and human freedom between the American system and the Chinese Communist totalitarian efforts to control everyone and everything. This 250th anniversary should be designed in part as a worldwide event with moral and political implications for every human everywhere. After all, all people are endowed by their Creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—whether they live in China, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, or Saudi Arabia. If properly designed, this celebration could lead to a major increase in the cause of freedom and the understanding of freedom as a system based on the rule of law.
The Declaration of Independence is worthy of American—and, indeed, worldwide—study because it was a revolution in the nature of power. The remarkable citizens who gathered in
Philadelphia declared that our rights come from God, not from men. This is now such an obvious assertion that it is hard to remember just how extraordinary it was in 1776.
Historically, kings derived their power from God, and the king delegated such powers to subjects as he thought fit (or they wrested powers from him as they could).
The idea that sovereignty resided in each individual as a gift from God, and that the citizen could decide what portion of that power to lend to government, was a revolutionary shift in power. It was also an astonishing shift in psychology.
Where the pre-Declaration world implied an automatic subservience to the morally authoritative power of the King, the world after the Declaration fostered personal power and authority that captured a growing sense that Americans could make their way in the world. People shifted from asking the King’s permission and doing what the King approved to inventing their own futures.
This sense of personal empowerment started with white men who owned land, but for the next 200 years, it spread until it came to include everyone, male and female, of every ethnic and religious background.
The concept of individual rights having a moral basis that transcended any claims of royalty was truly revolutionary. The Declaration of Independence was written in a world of Kings, Czars, Emperors, and aristocracies of various kinds.
President Abraham Lincoln fully understood the importance of preserving what he called “the last best hope of mankind.” He had risen from poverty to the presidency and knew that there was no other country in the world that offered that kind of opportunity. He understood that slavery was morally impossible in a country founded on the Declaration of Independence. As he wrote in the December 1862 Message to Congress: “In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free—honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.”
Lincoln reinforced the centrality of the Declaration of Independence in his famous address at Gettysburg during the dedication of the first national military cemetery. It is worth reading in its entirety to remind ourselves that Lincoln regarded freedom so highly that he was willing to ask Americans to lay down their lives for the very idea of being free:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Allen Guelzo, a senior research scholar in the Council of the Humanities at Princeton University, director of the James Madison Program’s Initiative in Politics and Statesmanship, and visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation, captured the central importance of freedom and the Declaration of Independence to the survival of the United States in a piece for The Christian Science Monitor:
By making freedom the war’s issue, Americans would keep alive a flame that only they, among all the nations of the earth, were tending.
On the other hand, if Americans had lost heart for freedom, then the whole experiment in democratic government which began in 1776 might as well be called off for good. Abolishing the last vestige of unfreedom in America would become the measure of whether we would “nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.
It’s difficult for us in 2010 to appreciate how seriously Lincoln embraced that anxiety about saving and losing “the last best hope of earth.” Two hundred and thirty-four years after we threw off the rule of a British king and established the world’s first successful, large-scale republic, democracy would seem to have become the default position of human governance. Of the 190 or so nation-states in the world today, Freedom House counts 116 as having electoral democracies, while dozens of unfree nations flatter democracy by having pretended to adopt it.
But Lincoln was speaking at a very different time. The 1789 French Revolution, which began so confidently on the model of the 1776 American Revolution, corkscrewed downward into terror and dictatorship. Democratic revolutions across Europe in 1848 were all ruthlessly suppressed.
Everywhere, democracy was being dismissed as an unstable sham that brought only misery and chaos. And when Americans protested that their democracy proved otherwise, cynical European aristocrats reminded them that the American democracy’s prosperity rested on the backs of millions of slaves.
When Lincoln looked around him in that bleak winter of 1862–63, the United States really did seem to be the “last best hope” of democracy on earth. But it was a hope whose
light might go out forever if the Civil War could not be won and the slaves could not be freed.
The power of freedom as defined in the Declaration of Independence and emphasized by President Lincoln can be measured in the 365,000 Union soldiers who died for the Union (the South lost an additional 290,000, making the Civil War by far America’s most costly conflict).
In thinking through a celebration of the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it is important to remember that it is not just the drafting of the document that matters. What makes this Declaration historic is that it rallied the American people to the moral cause of a Creator-endowed liberty and led—after eight years of war—to American independence.
Celebrating the Declaration of Independence should include studying and learning about the factors which led up to its drafting and the factors that led to the successful establishment of what Lincoln called “a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
This celebration should also highlight the factors leading up to the Declaration and the factors that enabled the American people to win a victory for freedom over the most powerful empire in the world.
This is not a time for celebrating a single day, but rather a time for understanding and celebrating an era—the era that created American freedom.
A YEAR-LONG, NATIONWIDE CELEBRATION
The Declaration of Independence is so important to our understanding of America, and the year in which it was adopted is of such historic importance, that we should focus on the entire year, not simply the Fourth of July.
Here is a sample calendar, which clearly can (and should) be dramatically enriched:
1. January: Launch an overview of the year that places the Declaration in context as an historic breakthrough that changed the trajectory of the human race (beginning to replace the divine right of kings and the brute right of dictators with a Creator-endowed right to freedom). Outline how the year will unfold and the many opportunities people will have to participate.
2. February: Explore the unique factors that from 1607 in Jamestown and 1620 in Massachusetts led Americans to practice self-government, develop an identity separate from Great Britain, and begin to acquire a sense of independence and legal rights separate from the King. Eliminate the mythology of the 1619 Project, and put the facts of both slave and free African Americans in context.
3. March: Revisit how the Founding Fathers developed their understanding of self-government from three sources: First, by studying the historic works that attempted to explain both the history and theory of effective and enduring free self-government;
second, through the practice of elections and legislative government in the colonies and the tension with Royal Governors appointed from London and their bureaucrats; and third, the correspondence between themselves and a handful of intellectual politicians in Britain over the principles to be applied to procure self-government.
4. April: Learn how constitutions are written and how the colonists established colonial, then state, governments on sound principles. Study the constant evolution of practical knowledge in the colonies that underlays the emergence of an American experience of self-government in Philadelphia.
5. May: Describe how a handful of bold, determined leaders decided to call a Continental Congress and the process of electing representatives to that Congress and learning to make it work. The story of how the citizens of 13 separate colonies of Great Britain transitioned to thinking of themselves as Americans is a remarkable one. Consider the extraordinary impact of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, published on January 10, 1776—and probably the most widely read pamphlet of the entire period. There was a remarkable interplay of personalities all driven by the need for leaders to make things work.
6. June: Look at the series of efforts made to reach out to London and find a way to avoid a war for independence. British aggression in Boston had a tremendous impact on the members of the Continental Congress, sparking the gradual realization that they would either have to submit to being subjects of a distant king, or they would have to learn to govern themselves and fight for the right to do so.
7. July: Dedicate this month to the great Declaration with all its moral, political, and diplomatic implications: how it was written, how and why it evolved through the drafting, and who contributed. The members of the Continental Congress had full awareness of what was at stake (their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor), and how deeply and seriously they took that pledge.
8. August: Study how the Declaration spread and how it was received in America, in England, and in countries that would end up helping the Americans in their war for independence. Look at the moral impact (and the impact on morale) of this assertion that our rights come from God. Study how General George Washington used the Declaration to strengthen the commitment of his army. Recall the initial period of optimism. With the British evacuation of Boston, there was a brief sense that independence was almost won.
9. September: Recall how the war became harder and the weight of British military and naval power began to grind down General Washington and his army. European opponents of Great Britain started to look for ways to help the American struggle for independence—not because they agreed with our claim of Creator-endowed rights (which actually threatened their own regimes) but because they found it in their best interests to undermine and weaken their British opponents, who had grown very strong over the previous half century.
10. October: Remind Americans today how their forbears were inspired by and believed in the Declaration of Independence. The war against Britain spread across the entire eastern seaboard and Britain found that it simply did not have enough troops to occupy all of the areas in revolt. The British army turned its focus to chasing Washington and trying to destroy his army.
11. November: Rediscover the importance of Thomas Paine’s The Crisis. Washington understood that a volunteer army of free people must have both moral purpose and hope.
With his army in retreat and gradually shrinking as men lost hope, Washington turned to Thomas Paine. He sent Paine out of the army (where he had been serving as a rifleman) to Philadelphia to write a second pamphlet explaining why things were harder than had been expected and why people had to persevere.
12. December: Commemorate the crossing of the Delaware. With the army on the edge of collapse and only 2,500 troops (one-third of whom were wearing burlap bags for shoes) capable of being in the field (less than one for every thousand Americans), Washington faced the greatest crisis of the Revolutionary War. If he failed to win a victory, his army would disappear, the war will be lost, and all the leaders would be hung as traitors. Washington devised an extraordinarily daring plan to cross the ice-filled Delaware River on Christmas night and march to Trenton, New Jersey, to isolate and capture 800 professional German soldiers (Hessians). As his men climbed into the boats, their officers read aloud from Paine’s newly published The Crisis, which explained why Americans must persevere to win their freedom. Morale and strategy go hand in hand. The Americans won a great victory, and thousands of new volunteers subsequently came pouring in. The revolution had not yet succeeded, but the British effort to suppress it had failed. In this context, 1776 ends on a high note and the momentum of the Declaration of Independence accelerates.
FIVE KEY GROUPS THAT MUST BE WOVEN INTO THE REVOLUTION STORY
The American Revolution was much more complicated and fascinating than simply the story of the white men who normally dominate the narrative. In fact, there are five major groups that must be included to get an accurate sense of the struggle for freedom:
1. Women. Women played a wide range of roles in the American Revolution, from creating the first American flag (Betsy Ross) to helping nurse the sick and wounded—many of whom would have died without the care of women (including Martha Washington who spent every winter at Valley Forge)—to actually fighting as soldiers (accounts of this happening are not limited to the legend of Molly Pitcher helping with the cannon; a number of women disguised themselves as men and served in the ranks of the American Army for years during the revolution). Finally, women who stayed at home kept the economy going, raised the food, educated the children, and often advised their husbands (the most famous but far from the only being Abigail Adams, whose letters to her husband John are an amazing amalgam of wisdom and daily events).
2. African Americans. No description of the American struggle for freedom would be complete without an accounting of the African American contribution. African American involvement in the American Revolution began with Crispus Attucks, believed to be the first man killed in the Boston Massacre in 1770. Salem Poor, who was born as a slave in Massachusetts but bought his freedom in the 1760s, fought at Bunker Hill, Saratoga, and Monmouth. At Bunker Hill, he fought so impressively that 14 of his fellow soldiers wrote a petition to the General Court of Massachusetts on his behalf. An estimated 5,000 to 8,000 African Americans served on the American side of the revolution. The First Rhode Island Regiment became the first integrated unit in the American Army. Furthermore, key slaves played a major role in helping and empowering the revolution. Billy Lee was so important to Washington as his personal aide and companion (on at least one occasion, he saved Washington’s life) that he was freed by Washington when the former President died.
3. Native Americans. Native Americans in the American Revolution were deeply split, with the majority favoring the British. A distant imperial capital seemed much less threatening than the local farmers and their militia, who were directly competing with native tribes over land rights and engaging in constant minor skirmishes and conflicts.
4. Immigrants. Immigrants in the American Revolution were enormously important in every aspect of the war. The most famous was Alexander Hamilton, whose brilliance, courage, and hard work made him indispensable to General Washington. In later years, his qualities made him a coauthor of the Federalist Papers, first Secretary of the Treasury, successful manager of the Revolutionary War debt, and developer of a report on manufactures that led to great American prosperity.
While most of the Europeans who would play leading military roles in the revolution came after 1776, they were drawn to America by the Declaration of Independence. The most famous and important of these was the Marquis de Lafayette, who became almost a son to Washington, served as a bridge to the French government in getting aid for the American cause, and provided an unchallengeable defense for Washington against those Members of Congress who plotted to remove him.
The importance of the Declaration of Independence in attracting freedom-loving Europeans is evident in the example of Polish military officer, Tadeusz Kosciuzko, who wept the first time he read it. Another example is General Johann de Kalb, who on his death bed after the battle of Camden supposedly said, “I die the death I always prayed for: the death of a soldier fighting for the rights of man.” It was no accident that many of the foreign officers were recruited by Benjamin Franklin, who had been one of the Declaration’s three principal coauthors.
5. Foreign allies. We should also look at the many foreign allies in the American Revolution. Without Dutch money, French weapons, and French soldiers and sailors, it is hard to see how the Americans could have succeeded in defeating the world’s most powerful empire. The American Revolution offers many examples of the importance of diplomacy and allies.
Following the celebration of the 250th anniversary of signing the Declaration of Independence, we will have three more opportunities to further educate the American people.
In 2032, we will celebrate the 300th anniversary of George Washington’s birth. The 200th anniversary of his birth, which took place in 1932, was a major nationwide celebration. As our country’s one “indispensable man,” citizen, general, and President, Washington should be in the mind and heart of every person who would truly understand America.
Then, in 2037, we will celebrate the 250th anniversary of the drafting of the Constitution. This document codified into practical governance the lessons the Founding Fathers had learned both
from studying other countries and civilizations (including ancient Greece and Rome) and from their remarkable practical experience writing and rewriting colonial and then state constitutions.
With the rise of originalists on the Supreme Court, this anniversary would be a great opportunity to introduce all Americans to the ideas and principles that the Founding Fathers thought were essential to preserving a free people. As part of that celebration, the Federalist Papers ought to once again become the common source of knowledge of the underpinnings of the Constitution for most Americans. A real effort to communicate the principles of the Federalist Papers both at home and abroad would expand the grasp of the principles of a stable, free society that operates under the rule of law and blocks potential dictators from acquiring power.
Finally, in 2041, we will celebrate the 250th anniversary of the adoption of the Bill of Rights, which is vital both for Americans and for the world. Recognizing that the Bill of Rights was designed to limit government’s ability to interfere with the individual’s freedom is key to understanding the American system. The Founders designed a system to limit government not, as in the case of the Chinese Communist dictatorship or its Cuban and Venezuelan counterparts, to limit the freedom of the individual. Understanding the political philosophy that led Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to insist on these amendments and outlining the depth of freedom they protect will be a great education for Americans and for everyone who wants to live in a free society without fear of tyranny.
These anniversaries offer an opportunity for a remarkable period of renewed understanding of American exceptionalism and a deepening awareness of what it takes to protect freedom and create an exceptional society.
THREE THINGS WE MUST AVOID DURING THESE CELEBRATIONS
Because of the depth of academic hostility to the idea of American exceptionalism, there will be a steady effort to distort these historic events by minimizing their uniqueness and importance or by undermining them and turning them into anti-American narratives. Three such anti-American narratives in particular have already emerged: The New York Times’ 1619 Project (which has been soundly repudiated by most serious historians); the radical historians’ rejection of America as a civilization; and the Smithsonian’s effort to trivialize the extraordinary achievement of the Declaration of Independence by surrounding it with interesting but irrelevant diversions.
Let’s consider each threat for a moment.
First, The New York Times’ 1619 Project, which attempts to depict all of American history as defined by slavery, was launched with enormous fanfare and with a real effort to embed the ideas in school curricula. It has been thoroughly assaulted by traditional historians who work on facts rather than social studies theories. In Bret Stephens words, “As fresh concerns make clear, on these points—and for all of its virtues, buzz, spinoffs and a Pulitzer Prize—the 1619 Project has failed.”
Because there is such a large left-wing activist group dedicated to the ideas inherent in the 1619 Project, any effort to develop a large, comprehensive celebration of the Declaration of Independence will be under pressure to reshape itself from standard history into something anti-American and condemnatory of the
American experience. A major role of the 1776 Commission will be to intellectually defend the facts against attacks from the anti-American activists.
As Stephens wrote: “That doesn’t mean that the project seeks to erase the Declaration of Independence from history. But it does mean that it seeks to dethrone the Fourth of July by treating American history as a story of Black struggle against white supremacy—of which the Declaration is, for all of its high-flown rhetoric, supposed to be merely a part.”
It is this kind of profound distortion and historical falsehood that a celebration must guard against.
Second, America as a “bad country” is a core theme that began to emerge from Progressive historians at the beginning of the 20th century. They were writing in reaction to the Parson Weems glorification of President Washington and the general cheerleading tone of most American history. They wanted to balance the record by shrinking American heroes. Their problem was, as Catherine Drinker Bowen wrote in her classic study of the writing of the Constitution, Miracle at Philadelphia, that much of American history has been miraculous. To take the miracles out is to take out the heart of American exceptionalism. In describing American achievements, the simple fact is that many of them are miraculous. Yet, there will be deep opposition to spending a year glorifying the Declaration of Independence because the critics of America will be appalled that we actually believe our rights come from our Creator.
In contrast to this positive vision of America, there is a profoundly hateful vision propagated on the left. As Dr. Mary Grabar describes it, “Since 1980, when it was first published, Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States has been spreading the idea that the United States is irredeemably corrupt.” She writes,
This book is fake history, based on falsified evidence, misquotations with critical words left out, and plagiarized disreputable sources.
Yet, a record-breaking 3 million copies have been sold, over 100,000 educators have signed up at the Zinn Education Project, and over 300,000 follow it on social media. It is widely used in Advanced Placement U.S. History high school classes and in teacher education programs. It is quoted in school books. In Portland, Oregon, and surrounding areas, for several years now, A Young People’s History has been used in all eighth-grade classrooms.
Zinn claims other historians have not told the truth about the atrocities committed by Columbus on down. People reading it cry and get angry, sometimes taking to the streets.
The Zinn book was the most popular book for Occupy Wall Street protestors, awards are given to organizers of Marxist groups in Zinn’s name, and the Antifa member who tried to blow up an ICE detention facility left behind a manifesto, saying, “Read Howard Zinn A People’s History of the United States.”
It is the Howard Zinn fanatics who will most bitterly oppose any honest celebration of the Declaration of Independence and the Founding of America.
The 1776 Commission will have to be vigilant in eliminating this kind of factually false but emotionally powerful anti-American hatred from the celebration of 1776.
Third, the final threat to guard against is the trivialization of the historic uniqueness of the Declaration of Independence by reducing it to one of a number of things. The pathetic but passionate desire of leftwing academics to recognize and denigrate American exceptionalism and the central role of the Declaration of Independence can be found in the Smithsonian’s proposal to simply dilute the significance of the events that occurred in Philadelphia and the American revolutionaries by including everybody, no matter how irrelevant.
Consider this description of a planned exhibition from the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission’s 2019 report to the President:
Smithsonian Institution, “Many Americas, Many 1776s”: A coordinated major exhibition from the National Museum of the American Indian, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Smithsonian’s Latino Center that will explore 1776 not just in the 13 original colonies, but in all the geography that makes up our present United States, from Alaska to Florida, Hawaii to Puerto Rico. “The Many 1776s” will examine the people, places, and cultures, many traditionally overlooked in revolutionary histories, and at the time of Independence. The exhibitions will also allow visitors to consider the ideals of the revolution through the lenses of the Native American, African American, and Latino experiences. One of the exhibition’s goals is to ensure that all Americans, no matter where they live, will see themselves in the telling of the American story. The Smithsonian will also reach out to every state and territory to invite them to “create their own 1776s” and reflect those efforts in its exhibitions and digital content.
This is precisely the kind of sophistry and silliness the 1776 Commission should take in hand and rewrite to return the effort to a genuine celebration of the Declaration of Independence and the cause it symbolizes.
Previous President’s Essays
- 1986: A Letter to My Children, Whittaker Chambers
- 1987: Up from Liberalism, Richard Weaver
- 1988: The Economic Necessity of Freedom, Wilhelm Roepke
- 1989: Errand Into the Wilderness, Michael Novak
- 1990: Isaiah’s Job, Albert Jay Nock
- 1991: Freedom, Tradition, Conservatism, Frank S. Meyer
- 1992: Enlivening the Conservative Mind, Russell Kirk
- 1993: Responsibility and Freedom, F. A. Hayek
- 1994: The Conservative Framework and Modern Realities, William F. Buckley Jr.
- 1995: A Letter to the Young, Midge Decter
- 1996: The March of Freedom: The Westminster Speech, Ronald W. Reagan
- 1997: Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman
- 1998: Liberty and Property, Ludwig von Mises
- 1999: Farewell Address, George Washington
- 2000: Four Essays, Leonard Read
- 2001: The Minister to Freedom: The Legacy of John Witherspoon, Joseph Loconte
- 2002: Defending U.S. Interests and Principles in the United Nations, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick
- 2003: The Contexts of Democracy, Robert Nisbet
- 2004: The Conscience of a Conservative, Barry Goldwater
- 2005: Statecraft, Margaret Thatcher
- 2006: A New Order for the Ages: The Making of the United States Constitution, Forrest McDonald
- 2007: A Letter to My Son, Norman Podhoretz
- 2008: The Case for Economic Freedom, Benjamin A. Rogge, Ph.D.
- 2009: Economics in One Lesson, Henry Hazlitt
- 2010: The Moral Sense, James Q. Wilson
- 2011: An American Renaissance, Jack Kemp
- 2012: The March of Freedom, Edwin J. Feulner
- 2013: Intellectual Pilgrims, Edwin J. Feulner
- 2014: Intolerance as Illiberalism, Kim R. Holmes, Ph.D.
- 2015: The Future for Defenders of Marriage, Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D.
- 2016: Churchill’s Trial and Ours, Dr. Larry P. Arnn
- 2017: American Individualism, Herbert Hoover
- 2018: Returning to Our Principles, Robert P. George
- 2019: Restoring the Souls of American Conservatives, Judge Janice Rogers Brown