004By: Carol Kennedy, Department Commander

Just days ago we celebrated our nations Birthday. Yes, we are 237 years old. We look pretty good for a nation of that age, having gone through many wars, civil fights and significant political changes. What are we really all about? Have you read the Declaration of Independence? . . .The Constitution of the United States? Why not?

Today we are not teaching much of anything about these two great statements of human liberty. Most of our citizens under 40 years of age don’t even know what they are, much less having read them. We, my fellow legionnaires, are falling down in our job to properly educate those that follow after us.

Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776, announcing this was a unanimous decision of the colonies that made them free and independent from their mother country Great Britain. Do you know who is considered the Father of the declaration of Independence? It wasn’t Thomas Jefferson. It wasn’t George Washington. It wasn’t Benjamin Franklin. Why don’t you know??

Years later, the statement “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. . . among those are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. Do you know who spoke these words that ring out through our history since then? Bet you could ask a dozen people and they would not know the answer.

What year was the Constitution ratified? 1776 ?? 1789?? , 1863??. Why do the people of the United States not know about their beginnings, especially since these are the very things we are based upon? Our founding fathers had lived under a government in Great Britain that forbid their freedom of worship, speech and other issues they vowed this new country would not force upon them. Do you know what those Amendments really mean?

We hear so much talk today about the First Amendment and the Second Amendment, but do you really know what they say and what they represent for the people of this country? The first states the “Congress shall make no law in establishing a religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press or the right of people to peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. “ The second amendment provides for a “well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed upon.” Many people don’t know or understand these and most of the other Amendments, because we are not teaching these things in our schools.

Do you know about our flag? Is it a law or a flag code that provides guidance on how our flag will be respected? People misuse and desecrate our flag and they say the First Amendment provides for that. We as a country can’t get a Flag Code passed through our US Congress and Senate to protect the very flag many died to keep flying.

But many other people don’t even know these things, and often don’t care. Do you know the four places in this great country where the flag is ALWAYS flown at half staff? Do you know the difference in half staff and half mast?? Why are we not teaching these things in our schools?

Well it is time for The American Legion to stand up and “Ignite Patriotism”. Start teaching our youth and many of our adults these issues. Take copies of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States to your youth groups and schools; instruct them on what the greatest statement of human liberty that has ever been written is really about. Teach flag etiquette, give tours of your Post home and be proud to teach what those special photos from WWI or WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq and other historical events mean. Don’t let these things be forgotten. Remember we believe in the United States of American. We believe in patriotism. We believe in caring for our veterans, our children and youth and supporting our communities. STEP UP, go out and tell the world, “We do live in the best country in the world. Wear your Legion caps and shirts with pride. Show your Patriotism. Thank you for all you do for The American Legion. “Ignite Patriotism”.