Ulysses S. Grant

On this day in 1822, the first ever General of the U.S. Army and the 18th President of the United States Ulysses S. Grant is born in Point Pleasant, Ohio.

President Abraham Lincoln promoted Grant to the second Lieutenant General in American history. The first was George Washington.

“The influence of this book”

Later in life, just nine years before he died of cancer in 1885, Grant wrote this in regard to education:

“Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet anchor of your liberties; write its precepts on your hearts and practice them in your lives. To the influence of this book we are indebted for all the progress made in true civilization, and to this we must look as our guide in the future.”

Ulysses S. Grant

Ronald Reagan shot

On this day in 1981, in an assassination attempt, John Hinckley Jr. shoots President Ronald Reagan in the left lung as the President left the Washington Hilton hotel. The bullet narrowly misses his heart. Still, the President walks in to George Washington University Hospital under his own power.

Less than two weeks later on April 11, the resilient Reagan returned to the White House. He concluded his diary entry for that day with this powerful statement:

“Whatever happens now I owe my life to God and will try to serve him in every way I can.”

Equally Beloved

Here’s an earlier, similarly powerful portion of that same diary entry:

“Getting shot hurts. Still my fear was growing because no matter how hard I tried to breathe it seemed I was getting less & less air. I focused on that tiled ceiling and prayed. But I realized I couldn’t ask for God’s help while at the same time I felt hatred for the mixed up young man who had shot me. Isn’t that the meaning of the lost sheep? We are all God’s children & therefore equally beloved by him. I began to pray for his soul and that he would find his way back to the fold.”

President Ronald Reagan shot

 

Ike American flag Dwight D. Eisenhower

On this day in 1969, Dwight D. Eisenhower , a highly regarded general of World War II and the 34th president of the United States dies at the age of 78, in Washington, D.C.

First, here are two excerpts from his remarks for the American Legion “Back-to-God” program:

“The Founding Fathers… produced the timeless documents upon which the Nation is founded and has grown great. They, recognizing God as the author of individual rights, declared that the purpose of Government is to secure those rights.”

“Without God there could be no American form of government, nor an American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first—and most basic—expression of Americanism. Thus, the Founding Fathers of America saw it, and thus with God’s help, it will continue to be.”

Eisenhower made “In God We Trust” our nation’s official motto. One can find an early iteration of this phrase in Francis Scott Key’s “Star-Spangled Banner,” which became Our national anthem.

Under God

Eisenhower had the words “under God” inserted in to the pledge of allegiance. On Flag Day, June 14, 1954 when he signed the bill to include the words “under God” in the pledge, he said:

“In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.”

Then and now, that’s why we like Ike.

Like Ike Dwight D. Eisenhower

Thomas Jefferson Summary View

On this day in 1775, Thomas Jefferson is elected to the second Continental Congress.

Jefferson originally established himself in the first Continental Congress with a tract entitled “Summary View of the Rights of British America.”

Inkling of Independence

Here are two excerpts from his “Summary”:

“[P]ropose to the said congress that an humble and dutiful address be presented to his majesty, begging leave to lay before him, as chief magistrate of the British empire, the united complaints of his majesty’s subjects in America; complaints which are excited by many unwarrantable encroachments and usurpations, attempted to be made by the legislature of one part of the empire, upon those rights which God and the laws have given equally and independently to all.”

“The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them. This, sire, is our last, our determined resolution; and that you will be pleased to interpose with that efficacy which your earnest endeavours may ensure to procure redress of these our great grievances, to quiet the minds of your subjects in British America, against any apprehensions of future encroachment, to establish fraternal love and harmony through the whole empire, and that these may continue to the latest ages of time, is the fervent prayer of all British America!”

Rights Reverberate

Of course, in early June 1776, Congress appointed a committee consisting of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert R. Livingston, and Thomas Jefferson to draft what would become the Declaration of Independence. This esteemed committee chose Jefferson to compose the most important document in the history self-government. He drafted it in just a few days, at the age of 33.

As we (should) know, this is the basis of Our Declaration:

“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, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Jefferson seemed to suggest as much in his “Summary” two years prior. As seen above, he acknowledged “The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time.”

 

Thomas Jefferson Summary View

Truman Federal Council of Churches

On this day in 1949, President Harry S. Truman signs a U.S. resolution authorizing $16 million in aid for Palestinian refugees who were displaced as a result of Israel’s War of Independence in 1948.

This situation was, and still is, an exceedingly volatile and complex. Our Lost Founding has no delusions of any ability to provide an adequate summary of the conflict here. Pro- and anti-Zionist groups, Palestinian refugees, Arab oil, and the state of Israel are the major sources of on-going conflict in the Middle East.

Truman had the unenviable task of reconciling safety for the Jews and good relations with Arab states.

Men and Nations

Truman’s address to the Federal Council of Churches on March 6, 1946 are as pertinent today as they were then. It applies to the current state of affairs in the Middle East and associated terror groups. We can also apply it to the current debate surrounding religious liberties in Our own country:

“Now that we have preserved our freedom of conscience and religion, our right to live by a decent moral and spiritual code of our own choosing, let us make full use of that freedom. Let us make use of it to save a world which is beset by so many threats of new conflicts, new terror, and new destruction.”

“If men and nations would but live by the precepts of the ancient prophets and the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, problems which now seem so difficult would soon disappear.”

Harry S. Truman Federal Council of Churches

 

President James Madison

On this day in 1751, James Madison is born in Conway, Virginia.

He was a key drafter of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, as well the recorder of the Constitutional Convention. Accordingly, Madison is known as the “Father of the Constitution.”
Furthermore, he was a key author of the Federalist Papers. Finally, Madison served two terms as the fourth President of the United States, from 1809 to 1817.

For all these towering achievements, James Madison stood at just 5′4″. I like him even more.

Divine Destiny

Here are portions of his Proclamation 20 – Recommending a Day of Public Thanksgiving for Peace from March 4, 1815:

“No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of Events and of the Destiny of Nations than the people of the United States.”

“And to the same Divine Author of Every Good and Perfect Gift we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land.”

James Madison

On this day in 1801, Vice President Thomas Jefferson is elected the third president of the United States. His running mate and eventual opponent was the infamous Aaron Burr. A tie vote in the Electoral College and 35 indecisive ballot votes in the House of Representatives preceded Jefferson’s election.

“With all these blessings”

Thus, Thomas Jefferson shared this at his first inaugural address on March 4, 1801

“Let us, then, with courage and confidence pursue our own Federal and Republican principles, our attachment to union and representative government. Kindly separated by nature and a wide ocean from the exterminating havoc of one quarter of the globe; too high-minded to endure the degradations of the others; possessing a chosen country, with room enough for our descendants to the thousandth and thousandth generation; entertaining a due sense of our equal right to the use of our own faculties, to the acquisitions of our own industry, to honor and confidence from our fellow-citizens, resulting not from birth, but from our actions and their sense of them; enlightened by a benign religion, professed, indeed, and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man; acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter — with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens — a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.”

 

Thomas Jefferson first Inaugural AddressThomas Jefferson inaugural address 2

Abraham Lincoln

On this day in 1809, Abraham Lincoln is born in Hodgenville, Kentucky.

Despite growing up a member of a poor family in Kentucky and Indiana, Lincoln became one of America’s most admired presidents.

“A new birth”

Regarding another form of birth, you have likely heard this quote from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

“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.”

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln Bible

On this day in 1861, President-elect Abraham Lincoln leaves his home in Springfield, Illinois bound for Washington, D.C.

Unfortunately, his belongings, including his Bible, did not arrive in time for his inauguration.

So, William Thomas Carroll, the clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court, provided a bible that he kept for official use, which went on to become what we know as the “Lincoln Bible,” and the design inspiration for one of Our t-shirts.

Find yours here:

Lincoln Bible t-shirt collage

Ronald Reagan Farewell Address

On this day in 1989, President Ronald Reagan gives his Farewell Address to the Nation. In doing so, he defined his vision of “the shining city upon a hill.”

“[I]n my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

Reagan built on the phrase preached by Puritan pilgrim John Winthrop in perhaps the earliest example of the idea of American exceptionalism. In 1630, while still aboard a ship bound for Massachusetts Bay, Winthrop delivered his sermon “A Model of Christian Charity.”

He said, “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.”

Of course, the origin of the phrase is found in Matthew 5: 14-16
14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Therefore, this is the ultimate aim of American exceptionalism.

Earlier in his address, Reagan acknowledged “The Great Communicator” nickname.
“I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn’t spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation—from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in the principles that have guided us for two centuries. …[F]or me it always seemed more like the great rediscovery… of our values and our common sense.”

Patriotism, Pilgrims, and Freedom

Then, he asked “are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world?

He continued by outlining the fracture that continues to plague our nation:
“We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American. And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. If you didn’t get these things from your family you got them from the neighborhood… .Or you could get a sense of patriotism from school. And if all else failed you could get a sense of patriotism from the popular culture.”

Then, he charged us all with doing “a better job of getting across that America is freedom-freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile; it needs protection.

Bringing this post full circle, he added that “we’ve got to teach history based not on what’s in fashion but what’s important – why the Pilgrims came here...”

Before concluding by saying “goodbye, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America” Reagan offered “lesson number one about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So, tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins. And children, if your parents haven’t been teaching you what it means to be an American, let ’em know and nail ’em on it. That would be a very American thing to do.”

Great Rediscovery

Of course, the purpose of Our Lost Founding is to help us rediscover “the principles that have guided us for two centuries.”

But why is that important? Ronald Reagan answered that question in his farewell address:
“[A]s long as we remember our first principles and believe in ourselves, the future will always be ours….”

Ronald Reagan Farewell Address

George Washington first State of the Union address

On this day in 1790, President George Washington delivers the first State of the Union address. Washington delivered the speech to Congress at Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York City.

As was fitting for the new nation, Washington’s brief address stands as the shortest State of the Union address ever. What follows are a few excerpts from  to his “Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives.”

Within our reach

“Still further to realize [your constituents’] expectations and to secure the blessings which a gracious Providence has placed within our reach will in the course of the present important session call for the cool and deliberate exertion of your patriotism, firmness, and wisdom.

Among the many interesting objects which will engage your attention that of providing for the common defense will merit particular regard. To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.

A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined;”

Sure and secure

“Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness. …To the security of a free constitution it contributes in various ways… by teaching the people themselves to know and to value their own rights;… to discriminate the spirit of liberty from that of licentiousness – cherishing the first, avoiding the last… .

Whether this desirable object will be best promoted by affording aids to seminaries of learning already established, by the institution of a national university, or by any other expedients will be well worthy of a place in the deliberations of the legislature.”

Today, as during our founding, may we again seek the blessings of Providence through “exertion of [our] patriotism, firmness, and wisdom.”

George Washington first State of the Union address