Yesterday I made copies of the Declaration of Independence. As I gave out granola bars and fruit, I said, "I have granola bars, I have fruit, I have copies of the Declaration of Independence--all you need to get your holiday week started out right."
A few students took a copy, which made me happy. But even if few people took my hint and my handout, I'm glad that I could be there to remind us all that there's more to Independence Day than having the day off, than wearing patriotic colors, than having a cookout or enjoying fireworks (or comforting our pets and PSTD sufferers who do not enjoy fireworks).
I am already thinking about next year: could we stage a reading of the Declaration? I'd like to do more with these holidays to help students remember the larger picture.
I have said before that the advantage to being part of a smaller campus that's part of a larger network is that I can do certain things, like buy granola bars and hand them out. If we decided to read the Declaration of Independence out loud next year, we'd be free to do that.
My old school was also part of a larger network, but we didn't seem to be nimble enough to try out new ideas. Or maybe by the time we realized we needed to do that, it was too late; morale was already so low that it was hard to motivate people to do anything at all.
My current campus is fairly new, and that's an advantage too. We don't have people mourning the loss of the school's glory days. We have people excited about the idea of campus growth--it's a different feeling than the one of desperation at my old school, where we knew that population was falling at a scary rate, and we knew the implications, but we were frozen with fear.
On this Independence Day, of course I have our country's founding parents on my brain. What made some of them so convinced of their vision that they were willing to risk being hung for treason? Were events just so intolerable that the risk of death didn't matter? Or were they enchanted by a vision of life as it could be?
For each patriot, I suspect the answer was different.
I am happy that at this point in my life, I don't have choices to make like those that faced people in 1775 or 1776. I am worried that we are headed down that road. I think of the ending of the Declaration: "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."
In the coming years, I wonder how many of us will have to do some serious thinking about what is worth the price of that pledge.
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