No mission, issue, policy, or debate – short of national security – matters more than education. In truth, our education system is our national security. That may seem an odd observation after midterms. It is not, when you think that America – when we are gone – is what we have taught Her to be. Follow me.
We have only a limited time to pass on what was given to us, how to value it, what we learned from those who raised us, what we saw in our lifetimes, skills perfected, lives with which we intersected. You may say, “Do not be so dramatic, there is always time.” Yes and no, no and yes.
A story about my parakeet…will make the point, quite well. But first, understand why this matters. What we are today is what our great, great, grandparents modeled to their children, who modeled it to theirs, who modeled it to our grandparents, who modeled it to our parents, and they to us. Things change, transportation, communication, means of education – but not the importance of freedom.
That never changes, because if it does, the boat has slipped from the dock, the wheel has turned, and getting it back – like recovering time itself – is all but impossible. As we get older, we realize how vital that lesson is, how essential that freedom be taught in our schools, practiced by growing kids.
Freedom is not permission for excess, not life without consequence, not doing what you please regardless of others. It is not free stuff, forgiveness of loans, indulgence, disrespect for institutions, or leisure without work. It is not license for either political violence or political silence. It is far bigger, far harder, far more gratifying. It is about living fully, making each day count, being responsible – for you.
It is about understanding that life in this “Once in All History” nation – built on ideals – requires stepping up, not in one particular way, but in some way, thinking of others first. This nation did not get here by chance, will not survive by chance. We are not an accident. We are a handoff of love – of freedom.
Our constitutional freedoms – to speak, worship, travel, earn, build, buy, not be randomly imprisoned, not held for no reason, to enjoy due process, equal protection, be secure in homes, breathe freely on safe streets – are all cultivated. This garden did not grow wild, it came with tending, caring, and work.
Our freedom comes from a long line of fighters, of all kinds, in all places, for all those rights. It comes from undeterred risk-takers, believers in free speech, free markets, and freedom’s uniqueness, people who dared to fail, often many times, got back up, tried again, until they made this a better place.
Some are with us, many are gone, but it has been an unbroken chain of custody. Chain of custody? Yes, chain of custody – one that required vigilance, selfless sacrifices of men and women, and constant teaching – through example and with words – about freedom.
The “vote,” our elections, our way of governing ourselves, appreciation for our institutions, for lives held together by each other, defined by public trust, commitment, and safety – all comes back to education.
Our Founders knew this, which is why they wrote so much, risked so much, gave so much, pioneered public universities, and expected that those of us who followed – in our time – would do the same.
The main point is to recall, in moments like this, that our elections are only as good as we are. They are freedom’s bulwark against tyranny only in proportion to how we educate ourselves – and those who will, in the due course, follow us. The vote is just a way of preserving freedom, so it must be informed.
Education is the great guarantor – not just of election integrity but of freedom’s precious nature. Only by teaching respect for freedom do elections have value. If we ignore the education part, we all lose.
Ronald Reagan felt as strongly as our Founders. He wrote: “If America is to offer greater economic opportunity to our citizens, if She is to defend our freedom, democracy, and keep the peace, then our children will need wisdom, courage, and strength – virtues beyond our reach without education.”
He continued. “In the words of Thomas Jefferson, ‘If a nation expects to be ignorant and free…it expects what never was and never will be.” Reagan knew this in his bones and tried with all his soul to convey it to us, while he could – which is what we also must now do.
And this brings me back to my pet parakeet…and the story. We have limited time to teach, and if we miss the window, we miss it, and what our kids learn will be taught by others. With no deliberate reference to “Ulysses S.,” our parakeet’s name is Grant.
Parakeets can ONLY Learn to talk when they are young. When Grant was young, we did not have time to teach him words, although young male parakeets – blue stripe on nose – can learn. We were too busy. Off we went to work and school, leaving Grant with the two dogs at home. Short is, he learned – to bark.
Moral: Teach while you can, do not leave it to others. Educating about freedom – even if your bird is named Grant – does not happen, unless you make it so. Freedom’s future depends on our making it so. He would probably still…live in a cage, but he never learned “freedom matters.”
We hope you've enjoyed this article. While you're here, we have a small favor to ask...
Support AMAC Action. Our 501 (C)(4) advances initiatives on Capitol Hill, in the state legislatures, and at the local level to protect American values, free speech, the exercise of religion, equality of opportunity, sanctity of life, and the rule of law.Donate Now