The depressing debate over the debt ceiling underscores just how recklessly the ruling class has squandered America’s sacred heritage — a heritage I had the privilege of revisiting up close this past week on a family vacation.
The contrast between the sublime historical locations we experienced during the day and the alarming news we ingested each night about the dire state of our nation’s financial condition couldn’t have been starker.
Upon witnessing the majesty of our historical sites, it’s difficult not to be outraged at the irresponsible stewardship of our do-gooder ruling class. These elites are on the final leg of their long journey to uproot our founding principles and remake the nation in their quest for moral self-realization through public acts of philanthropy with other people’s money and liberty. In the name of compassion, they have systematically undermined our founding ideals of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and equal opportunity under the law.
Standing firm against this relentless onslaught are patriots committed to preserving our tradition of constitutional self-governance and our liberties, and there is no greater inspiration for patriots than America’s historical sites. Let me share with you, then, a few highlights of the places we visited.
We flew into Washington, where we visited the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the National World War II Memorial, the Capitol, Ford’s Theatre, the National Museum of American History, the American Museum of Natural History and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Later in the week, we went to Gettysburg and were treated to a moving two-hour tour by a personal guide who couldn’t have been more informative.
But from Washington, we headed for George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon. It is hard to imagine a more beautiful setting. The house and grounds are in mint condition, and the facility is one of the finest I’ve seen anywhere. It is thrilling to stand on the grounds and inside the actual home of America’s first president.
The next day, we visited Colonial Williamsburg, which contains a nearly mile-long stretch of period buildings and other attractions. Workers are dressed in costume and perform in character, making the experience truly authentic. My favorite spot there was the Capitol building, where the guide recounted the seminal work in constitutional statecraft of Virginia’s many heavyweights of the era, including George Mason and Patrick Henry.
From there, we raced toward Jamestown before it was to close at 5 p.m. to see what remains (and what has been restored) of America’s early settlement. The foundation of the settlers’ first church is still intact, and the outlines of the town are clearly marked. Being physically present on these sites makes our history come alive in a way that cannot be adequately captured in books.
That night, we drove to Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, in Charlottesville, which was also spellbinding. Monticello is a testament to Jefferson’s genius and diverse talents. From the classical design of the home to the contents of every room, you get a sense of his brilliance, individuality and multitudinous interests. As our guide told us about Jefferson’s entertaining his friends James Madison, George Washington and Andrew Jackson, we couldn’t help but picture ourselves eavesdropping on their dinner conversations. We learned that when the British torched the Library of Congress in the War of 1812, destroying so many books, Jefferson arranged to sell to the national government thousands of books from his beloved personal library to refurnish the national collection.
Our next stop was Montpelier in Orange, Va., the home of Jefferson’s best friend, James Madison. It was beautiful, as well, but it was a small room on its second floor that moved me as much as any other location we visited.
It was here that Madison, for months on end, pored over hundreds of books on constitutional government in his painstaking pursuit to design the optimal form of government to cure the defects of the Articles of Confederation and establish a government that would maximize and preserve individual liberties. These books were delivered from Europe by Jefferson at Madison’s request and were mostly written in foreign languages.
Madison’s efforts would bear abundant fruit, as he was instrumental in crafting the Constitution. Fittingly, our final stop was Philadelphia, where we stood in the very room in Independence Hall in which America’s great statesmen selflessly crafted, debated and signed the Constitution.
As the week ends, I am more convinced than ever that words alone are insufficient to express the richness of America’s heritage and the debt we owe our Founding Fathers and all others who sacrificed so much so that we could be free.
As we measure the forces determined to structurally change this nation, divest us of our liberties and, in the process, inevitably bankrupt us, let us always be mindful of the sacrifice of these great men, who bequeathed to us our liberties, and honor them and our posterity by redoubling our commitment to fight to the end to preserve them.