At This Moment: A Memorial Day Tribute


On this Memorial Day, I share a video from Hillsdale College that at only three and half minutes offers a poignant tribute to those who gave their lives for the freedoms we today enjoy. Watch the video here and feel free to share it with your loved ones.

“…that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that 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

Live a Good Life: Lessons From Filoli Gardens

“The sundial’s truth: Time began in a garden and never truly departs.” —Jessica Yaffa Shamash

The “L-I” in FILOLI: The Good Life

A few weeks ago Linda and I visited Filoli Gardens south of San Francisco. Filoli is a beautiful estate of 23,000 acres on a slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Christened “Filoli” by the creator William Bourn, it is a made-up word taken from the first letters of his personal motto: FI-ght for a just cause; LO-ve your fellow man; LI-ve a good life. Living an abundant, good life is our goal.

The ancient Greek Philosopher Aristotle had much to say about living the good life of greatest happiness. He suggested that as we journey through life we may discover or even acquire the knowledge of what happiness is. It is a life of activity and is an end and not the means to an end.

Aristotle says a life of joy, abundance and happiness should not be confused with the pleasure of the poorer class of people nor honor from politics, or wealth of the affluent, but a contemplative life built on developing moral virtue that leads to human excellence or happiness. This means an acquaintance of the cardinal virtues of courage, temperance, justice, and prudence. Then developing the habits of choosing the mean between two extremes. As in the case of courage the extreme on one end is overzealousness or recklessness. On the other end cowardice or paralysis.

After the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and fires many of the wealthy migrated south to the peninsula to escape the city ruin. New railroad tunnels made the commute easier, large estates soon became the fashion in the Hillsborough and Woodside areas. Thus Filoli was built with steel girders to protect against the home being built just a few hundred yards from the San Andreas Fault by the Bourn Family. As it turns out it straddles the fault with the Pacific Plate on one side and the North American Plate on the other.

About FILOLI’s Creator: William Bourn

William Bowers Bourn was born in 1857 and raised a wealthy son in post-Gold Rush San Francisco. His family had ownership or a significant stake in the Empire Mine in the Nevada City Area in the heart of Gold Country of Highway 49. The miners were asked to drill even further down in the mine. To accomplish that they imported miners from Europe skilled in burrowing deeper than any thought possible. They encountered a vein of gold that was a huge money maker. Thus, they had the resources to build this fantastic self-sustaining country estate. The land reminded them of Muckross Estate in Ireland near the Killarney Lakes. This was also purchased in 1910 by William and Agnes Bourn as a wedding gift for their only daughter Maud and became a place of refuge and beauty and gave them the idea for such an estate on the peninsula 30 miles below San Francisco.

William said, “My idea is to devote the afterglow of my life, this is the next 40 to 50 years or so, in personal supervision of its development. There I hope to grow young.” What sets this beautiful estate apart from others was the creation of the gardens and love of flowers, trees, and shrubs in all their varieties that are raised on the property. It is like eye candy everywhere. It’s a stunning sight to see so much variety in color. Or as expressed by John Ruskin a Victorian-era art critic, “Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty.” May is that time of year to enjoy the April showers that bring May flowers.


Gardens were the English word for flowers, which is a derivative of the word flourish. The primary sense is to open, expand, enlarge, or to shoot out, as in glory. We fell in love with the name and the idea of Aristotle’s living the good life by fighting for a just cause and loving our fellow man. These ideas seem to go hand in hand. There were also several pithy quotes inset into the landscape that gave it character as well. Here are two more:

“Dappled light shines through Each branch a puzzle of Sun The leaves glow chartreuse.”—Rachel Matzke

“Bee clothed in pollen Gathering what will become Honey for my tea.” —Jessica Chen

The “F-I” in FILOLI: Finding Your “Just Cause”

What is your “just cause” you would live for, fight, or die for? A young shepherd named David asked this rhetorically when challenged by his older brother who thought David was being brash when he expressed his courage to accept the invitation of the giant Goliath.

“And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? And the people answered him after this manner, saying, So shall it be done to the man that killeth him. And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle. And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?” ( The Bible, KJV, 1 Samuel 17:26-29)

There were several causes listed by him. He would fight for his family, liberty, and community.

The “L-O” in FILOLI

The middle of the Filoli sequence is to LO-ve your fellow man. The rest of this story helped fulfill this vision when the estate passed to the Roth Family in 1937 some 20 years after the estate was built. Lurline Roth took a special interest in the garden. She later donated the house and garden to the National Trust for Historic Preservation by stating: “Filoli is too beautiful to be private.” Thus sharing her love of fellow man by donating this beautiful estate into trust for all of us.


All of this can perhaps be summarized this way:

“To be what is called happy one should have something to live on, something to live for, something to die for. The lack of one of these results in drama. The lack of two results in tragedy.” —Cyprian Norwid

The Transformation is Available to You As Well

The American Classical Leadership Education® employed at John Adams Academies was designed to transform the scholar. The model “liberates the scholar by enabling the scholar to discover truth. The scholar is invited to act on that truth and in the process grows in wisdom. It is by thoroughly engaging in the classics and by the examples of great mentors that a scholar is inspired to develop the virtue to do what is right. These are the necessary pillars for the cultivation of servant leadership of self-governing citizens who choose to serve, particularly in keeping and defending the principles of freedom throughout civil society.”

Last week we enjoyed an essay by a transformed scholar who is soon to graduate. I’d like to share some other examples of transformed scholars, in their own words describing their own experiences. But this time I invite you to ask yourself the following as you read:

Is the transformation being described something that I would like for myself? Am I past the point of being able to experience the same?

With those questions in mind, I’d love to share the following:

Sariah Jensen: “The main way John Adams Academy has changed me is by making me love classics. If I went to any other school I know that I would not have read any classics…I was trying to complete the 50 Harvard book challenge that was given my sophomore year. I got to about 30 books, sadly I will not be able to finish while still in high school. Most of those books were hard to read because I thought they were not that interesting, but in each book there would be something that was great and made it worth reading. All of the books that I have read for my classes have been life-changing, always making me think of something greater.”

Camilla Bergstrom: “Receiving a classical liberty-based education has changed my view on the world around me and has taught me the fundamental concepts to succeed in life; those are the pursuit for truth, wisdom, and virtue, and through it all prioritizing the embodiment of servant-leadership. Classical form of education carries with it the power to transform lives through the study of classics…I started to use my studies from my philosophy class and apply the lessons learned to my everyday life. I learned that all the great men in history, since ancient times, succeeded when they used their wisdom to follow the truth through virtuous actions… The pursuit of truth is a lifelong journey that is and will lead me to be a better citizen. Wisdom is also acquired over time. It has improved my self-governance and ability to decide in challenging situations. Additionally, it is wisdom and truth that promote a strong virtuous character. John Adams Academy has changed my mentality on education, politics, and what a good life looks like. Aside from growing intellectually, John Adams Academy has impacted my moral compass and allowed me to see a new purpose for my existence.”

Isabella Matson: “Through my classical education at John Adams, I have learned what good morals and virtues look like. I know what the foundation of my country is based upon and who it was founded by. I know the great philosophers that came before and am able to understand their arguments and logic. I used to believe that religion was not for me, but being here in this place has inspired me to research the different communities of religion in hopes that I will find one where I fit and restore my faith in God. I used to believe that there was such a thing as the perfect family or the perfect environment, but it is here I realized that neither of those things exist. It is through hard work and dedication that one can achieve a more ideal world, but the perfect world does not exist. I used to believe that the world was against me until I came here, gained a wonderful education, and stopped blaming the world for my problems. It is through this very education that I was able to battle my depression, as it showed me a world that is beautiful and the pieces that are not. It showed me that I have the ability and power to change.”

Clara Cammarota: “At John Adams Academy “my faith has become more concrete…Because of John Adam Academy’s classical approach to education, I do not believe I could be as firm in my faith as I am today. Learning from the great thinkers has helped me in a way that no matter where I go, I have the tools to be happy. Realizing that God is good and just has helped me to see that suffering is not a meaningless happenstance with effects that will linger forever. All things have a purpose and although we as humans might not see them, God in Heaven has a plan for all His creations. Everything happens for a reason and that is a comfort to me and to all people who have struggled.”

Valeria Cerna: “Throughout my years at John Adams, I have seen and experienced what it means to be a supportive classmate. When I took biology in my sophomore year, I struggled with understanding a few assignments. I reached out to my classmates and asked them for help. I will never forget how kind and caring they were toward helping me. I have found this to be a common theme no matter the class I am in: caring for the education of others. Everyone truly desires and contributes to the academic success of everyone else. The scholars at John Adams Academy create a positive environment by supporting each other.”

Just as the American Classical Leadership Education® was designed to transform the scholar, Revolution in Education has been designed to inspire you to transform yourself.

True, there are no teachers here to assign essays, homework or due dates. It is up to you to seek out the knowledge available to you and do the work of consuming, processing and applying the wisdom expressed by the greats from the past.

I promise that if you take this journey, you will find that you–like these exceptional scholars setting out to change the world after changing themselves– will scarcely be able to stop yourself from striving to transform your family, your community, and your country for the better through your service and your leadership.


Sturdy Virtue and a Living Faith: Happy Mother’s Day

There are many stories to be told of the love and strength of mothers throughout history.

The women of The Mayflower certainly had love for their children or future children in mind when they each made the decision to brave the journey to a new world.

The risks were great, but their hopes for their children and families were greater. They saw the possibilities for freedom and the opportunity to love and serve God according to their consciences and they could not pass up the chance for those blessings.

An alarming number of women would perish that first winter in Plymouth. All but four survived.

The other survivors of that first dreadful season included 25 children. These children of the colony would be cared for and raised by the remaining four women, none of whom were spared the grief of loss despite having been spared their lives.

These mothers were a blessing to their now 35 million descendants.

It’s no wonder Plymouth, Massachusetts is home to the monument “The Pilgrim Mother” on which is inscribed the following:

They brought up their families in sturdy virtue and a living faith in God without which nations perish!

Today, my love and admiration goes to all the mothers who have likewise striven to bring up their families in virtue and faith. This is our own “new world” full of uncertainty and risks and your efforts are noble and appreciated.

Happy Mother’s Day!

An Education That Has the Power to Transform

As the school year wraps up, many scholars are graduating and moving on to the next stage of their education. It has been my honor to have been led by Providence to create, with Linda, the American Classical Leadership Education® and I am humbled by the impact I have seen it have on our scholars over the years. And as a portion of those students leave our school’s nest, I would like to share some thoughts coming from one soon-to-be graduate.

The American Classical Leadership Education® model teaches and inspires thinkers, leaders, inventors, citizens, entrepreneurs, and statesmen.  It inspires, leads, and invites  individuals “how to think” and teaches them why it is important.  Robert Hutchins said classical education is “the education of free men in the knowledge and skills that are needed to remain free.” This is because leaders select the goals of a nation and the methods of achieving those goals, and the education of tomorrow’s leaders determines the level of freedom, prosperity, and integrity of the next generation.

Those may seem like lofty and rigorous standards to put on the shoulders of youth, but I assure you that the fruits that have been borne bear out the model. Here is an example exhibited through a response to the prompt “How has John Adams Academy changed you?”— a prompt that I give to the scholars and staff each year as the school year winds down.

How Has John Adams Academy Changed Me?

Lauren E. Bixle

“How my education at John Adams Academy changed me” is the question at hand and the topic of this essay. After giving the question a great deal of thought and reflection I was struck by the realization that, at least for me, it is the wrong question. In order to assess how my education has “changed” me, I need a frame of reference for what I was before. Fortunately, I have no such frame of reference because John Adams Academy is all I’ve ever known. I am blessed to have been formed and shaped by the curriculum and culture of John Adams Academy from the very beginning of my educational journey. Therefore, I think a better way to address the thrust of the question is to examine and celebrate what my education at John Adams Academy has helped me become – a scholar, servant leader, and citizen committed to a cause “greater than self” who has learned to love abundantly.

As a scholar I have learned to love classical education and the wisdom it imparts. Learning is a noble endeavor proper to human beings, and the ability to understand ideas and principles as “true” is among the most beautiful fruits of classical education. I have come to love learning and embrace it as a lifelong process. Nothing surpasses the knowledge and wisdom found in theClassics as they reveal the universal themes and great stories of human existence.

As a servant leader I have learned to love people and derive joy and purpose from working on their behalf. Through role models such as George Washington I have learned what true leadership is and how service is the essential component of it. Servant leadership is key to finding greater purpose in life. It is a signal virtue – one that prepares people for citizenship, equips them for self-government, and makes them worthy of the blessings of liberty.

For example, because I love my school and my fellow scholars I was pained to see the negative impact on connectedness and community spirit caused by the Covid pandemic and related public policy. I strongly believe the increase in social media use among my peer group has also contributed to this malaise. I felt compelled to address this problem so I created a sustainable peer mentoring program encouraging healthy, positive scholar connections. Having seen the enormous impact of mentors in my own life, I believed peer mentorship could reduce feelings of disconnectedness and restore authentic human engagement among my peers. With the support of staff and administration I was given the opportunity to incorporate this program into Secondary Lyceum and I am working on developing the model to include Elementary as well. This project catalyzed my passion for servant leadership and demonstrated how one person can have a positive impact on many. John Adams Academy nurtures servant leadership and creates an environment where it can flourish – within me, and within others.

As a citizen I have learned to love liberty, the Founding Principles, and the traditions of Western Civilization handed down by our forebears. John Adams Academy has prepared me for “citizenship” in the true sense of the word. Through my classical education and scholarship at John Adams Academy I have acquired powerful intellectual tools that will guide me as I engage a world increasingly hostile to the principles of freedom. As I contemplate the meaning of “Public and Private Virtue,” I consider courage to be the principal virtue upon which all others are predicated and feel confident that my time at John Adams Academy has prepared me for the fight that lies ahead.

At John Adams Academy I have also learned to love life. Life is precious and must be defended, both at the individual and societal levels. Life is also finite, creating a sense of urgency to act meaningfully and purposefully for the betterment of myself and my fellow citizens. Time is far too precious to squander on idle pursuits, enslaved to base desires or beholden to the whims of those who seek to rule over us. I learned at John Adams Academy that “Self-governance, Personal Responsibility and Accountability” are hallmarks of citizenship and liberty. That is my path.

I can’t know who I would be today had my path been different, but I know for certain I would not be the person I am without John Adams Academy. The culture, curriculum and extraordinary mentors at John Adams Academy have opened many doors for me and set me on this path of lifelong learning in pursuit of the good, the true, and the beautiful. Mentors have been my guiding light – because of them, I can envision a future full of purpose and abundance and possess the tools to pursue it fearlessly. Faced with a nation in crisis, my mentors have called me to duty – to be a beacon of hope for others and reject the temptation to despair. Drawing on the wisdom of the Classics and the encouragement of my peers and mentors, I will go forth with courage and boldly carry the best traditions of Western civilization and the American Founding into the future.

I am proud of the person I have become, and feel profound gratitude for the role John AdamsAcademy has played in making me that person. May I always act in a manner that brings honor to the name and legacy of our beloved school.

In a Democratic Republic such as the United States, all citizens have a part in government.  Based upon true principles each citizen should be able to look past instant gratification, rhetoric, fancy speeches, and simplistic solutions to understand the right course of action.  Every one of the citizens of this great nation has the responsibility once reserved for only the well-educated, the classically educated.  And so, every citizen, college-bound or not, should receive the type of education that will develop greatness in mind and character to a become servant leader of integrity and sound judgment.

In Lauren I not only see a bright future, but I have confidence that she will be among the fiercest defenders of truth, beauty, and virtue out there. It is through her words that I hope you will see why I am calling all to a Revolution in Education.

Sports and Liberties

Have you ever considered the relationship among freedom, family and franks?

Our recent visit to New England brought us a few unexpected detours, and one of the best was a last minute decision to sit in with the Sox in famous Fenway Park.

Besides the chance for some good old-fashioned leisure, catching a game gave me the opportunity to help my grandkids make some connections between the things they love (like taking time out to watch sports) and the things they should treasure (like a country that gives its citizens space to pursue their own greatness). Sports, like baseball, give us another aspect of personal liberty. One of the blessings of freedom is to produce opportunities for talent discovery in the areas of competition and personal improvement. We can’t help but admire those who develop their personal talent and have the courage to put it on display. Americans are strivers, go-getters, and innovative thinkers. In fact, what could be more American than “baseball, hot dogs, apple pie”—except perhaps as one car company suggested in 1976 that we expand the slogan from a trio to a quartet by adding the word Chevrolet!

Of course, all ball games begin with the National Anthem!

Fenway Park—It never gets old! Built in 1912 and rebuilt in 1934, this is one of the most beautiful and storied baseball parks in America. It is a stunning beauty on the inside. As we toured this park it was evident just how much history it holds.

Sports finds its genesis in education. The pursuit of athletic greatness has allowed many dreams to come true, but not without desire, determination, and grit.

A Fenway Frank is also a necessity!

A grandson named Boston is also important! Can you tell who that is?

A Look at the History-Makers

As a boy I loved the stories of Babe Ruth and Willie Mays. Here is what the baseball legend Babe Ruth wrote of his school experience:

Ruth was sent to St. Mary’s Industrial School at the age of seven. There he met Brother Matthias who Ruth said “was the greatest man I’ve ever known. Brother Matthias studied what few gifts I had and drew those out of me. He always built me up…when I would have trouble with my studies….he’d help me—though he had a hundred other things to do. He taught me to read and write and he taught me the difference between right and wrong.”

Ruth’s education was achieving its primary purpose, which is to teach true and false, good and bad, right and wrong. Aristotle called this being “of great soul.” A soul is defined as “the spiritual, rational and immortal substance in man, which distinguishes him from brutes; that part of man which enables him to think and reason, and which renders him a subject of moral government.” (Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language 1828)

I loved the fact that Babe Ruth was never afraid to strike out. While holding the record for strikeouts he also held the home run record for decades at 714. He always tried to swing as hard as he could. He would hit big or miss big. His professional success informed his personal success. He knew that a team was made up of many players contributing in unison—and not individual stars. As the most successful player of his time, he often lent his teammates money with few paying him back. (O’Neil, William. 2004. Sports Leaders & Success: 55 Top Sports Leaders & How They Achieved Greatness. McGraw-Hill.)

Babe Ruth could pitch, field, and his batting was legendary. But my baseball hero growing up was Willie Mays.

Mays too came from humble circumstances. He could hit with power, field, run and throw. His fielding was legendary. His father told him that to be a professional baseball player he needed to do all those things very well. Mays’ mentor was his father, who taught him honesty, fairness with others, and a work ethic to excellence.

“The greatest athletes are talented, of course, but the best of all time generally reach that status by outworking everyone else of equal or greater talent.”

—William J. O’Neil, Founder Investor’s Business Daily

Learning From the Greats

Our visit to Fenway was punctuated with a visit to their museum of baseball heroes. There we observed souvenirs of those who overcame numerous challenges, with the most difficult being control over self.  Sitting in a display case was a Dodgers uniform with the number 42 which belonged to Jackie Robinson, perhaps the greatest baseball player ever. He lived at a time when black players were not allowed to compete in the major leagues—that is until Dodger President Branch Rickey put him on the team and taught him to not answer the slurs, taunts, or verbal abuse, but let his play on the field do the speaking.

By the time we walked out of Fenway, our stomachs were full of franks and our heads were full of stats, but I still hoped my grandchildren were coming away with more important lessons—the ones that had the power to influence their futures.

Successful people in all endeavors set goals, educate themselves in their passion, outwork others and are fiercely driven and determined to do what it takes to succeed. We lingered especially on the uniform of Jackie Robinson who broke the racial divide by perhaps his greatest victory—the one over self.  What a day!

Featured image attribution: Fenway Park

What is Man?

Before our recent trip to Massachusetts someone incredulously asked me, “You aren’t going to visit Harvard are you?”

I responded immediately, “Of course we are!”

Harvard University is the place John Adams was educated. One of the first things the New England Pilgrims did was establish schools of higher learning! Intellectual capacity and development is a heritage to New England and to this country. All who come here should recognize the indispensable nature of education in furthering happiness and success.

Consider this, Harvard was established in 1636 in Boston a mere 18 years after the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth. Education mattered to them. As noted in a prior post, one of the four values represented in stone on The National Monument to the Forefathers was education. On it is shown a child and mother on one side and a grandfather on the other representing teaching, mentoring and wisdom.

The Johnston Gate entrance to Harvard includes this inscription:

After God had carried us safe to New England/ and wee had builded our houses/ provided necessaries for our liveli hood/ reard convenient places for Gods worship/ and setled the civill government/ one of the next things we longed for/ and looked after was to advance learning/ and perpetuate it to posterity/ dreading to leave an illiterate minister/ to the churches when our present ministers/ shall lie in the dust.

On the importance of education, John Adams expressed his feelings this way in a letter to Thomas Jefferson:

“For I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents. Formerly bodily powers gave place among the aristoi. But since the invention of gunpowder has armed the weak as well as the strong with missile death, bodily strength, like beauty, good humor, politeness and other accomplishments, has become but an auxiliary ground of distinction. There is also an artificial aristocracy founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents; for with these it would belong to the first class. The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society. And indeed it would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed man for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of the society.”

Education is the way we discover our virtues, gifts, talents, intellect and excellence. Education informs and animates liberty. In order for America to be a place of natural aristocracy, we must take the time and effort to make those discoveries for ourselves.

I found it interesting that one of the primary purchases by my grandchildren while we were there was a Harvard sweatshirt that was proudly on display as they touched the toe of University Founder John Harvard.

As I circled the monument, I came upon the word VERITAS meaning truth. The original motto of Harvard was Truth for Christ and the Church. Truth was important to these hardy pilgrims. They knew that Jesus words proclaimed, “If ye continue in my word ye are my disciples indeed and ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:31-32) and also “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)

In the twentieth century, as Harvard became more secularized, the last part of the phrase was cut so the motto now reads Veritas or “Truth.” Many have become disappointed in the turn to a more secular form of learning and education which leaves Deity completely out.

Because too many today are convinced words are defined by “whatever you believe it to mean,” it is good to revisit a trustworthy definition of the word truth. Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language 1828 defines truth as “Conformity to fact or reality; exact accordance with that which is, or has been, or shall be.”

Our young guide next took us by Emerson Hall, which houses the Department of Philosophy. She pointed out the building and stated, “Notice what is on top of the building.” It read: What is man, that thou art mindful of him?

“Now that is a deep thought,” she said.

Little did she seem to know that she was pointing out one of the Psalms of David from the Old Testament. Here is how it reads in context. “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet…” (Psalm 8)

The accomplishments of man pale in comparison to the infinite creation of Deity.

Everywhere we turned on the campus we found evidence of its historic roots in Christianity, Truth, Beauty and Goodness to fellow man.

I loved visiting Harvard. It made me desire even more to finish my reading of the Harvard Classics mentioned in my prior post. The educational tradition of this institution is epic and notable.

The beauty of the world we live in today is that such an education is within the grasp of every person in the world! These great books and mentors are part of the public domain. Or as I told those two sixth grade boys at the outset of COVID-19 in the post just linked, why wait to go to Harvard!? You can go now! It is education that lifts, inspires and civilizes man to then humbly approach the throne of learning.

The Shot Heard Round the World: Visiting the Birthplace of Our Liberty

“Liberty is the delicate fruit of a mature civilization [beset in every age by its] natural enemies, by ignorance and superstition, by lust of conquest and love of ease, by the strong man’s craving for power, and the poor man’s craving for food…Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end.….that dreary and heartbreaking course by which men have passed to freedom, is the story of the deliverance of man from the power of man.”

—Lord Acton from The History of Freedom and Other Essays

Lord Acton, considered to be one of the greatest classical historians of all time, asserts in his writings that the American Revolution was founded on only one idea.

What was that idea? FREEDOM.

At 10 p.m. on April the 18, 1775, British soldiers left Boston to confiscate and destroy illegal weapons stored by the Colonists. These were not just hunting rifles, but cannons, rifles and gunpowder to kill the King’s soldiers. Paul Revere and others set out to warn the Colonists of the opponents’ intentions.

At this point, on the Old Concord Road, ended the midnight ride of Paul Revere, William Dawes, and Samuel Prescott. They covered the distance of 25 miles from Boston to Concord in a few hours, alerting all they could along the way.

“The British are coming!”

They alerted many. By 2 a.m. they were met at this bend in the road by a British patrol where they were taken as prisoners to Lexington and released the next morning after which they joined John Hancock and John Adams.

The Minutemen of Acton, Concord, Lincoln, and Bedford

These were men who had been rehearsing and practicing the art of war many months prior to the outbreak of the conflict. At any moment the bells of the church would ring and they would be warned to gather and prepare for battle.

First Parish Church in Lexington

The Minute Man Statue

Captain Isaac Davis indicated of that time, “I haven’t a man that’s afraid to go.” Captain Davis would be one of the first that day to lay down his life for freedom on the first day of the revolution.

The Minuteman National Historical Park marks the starting place of the American Revolution, which began April 19, 1775. Here the resolve of citizens willing to risk their lives for the ideals of liberty and self-determination was instrumental in the formation of the American identity.

Lexington Green is where Colonial militiamen and British soldiers clashed. A force of 700 British Regulars left Boston to seize military supplies stockpiled in Concord. Alarm riders like Paul Revere alerted the countryside and that is how the men were present and prepared to stop the British at 5 a.m. In area towns, militia companies assembled, ready to defend their communities and their liberties if necessary.

The Battle of Lexington—April 19, 1775 by William Barnes Wollen

Jonathan Harrington House, Lexington

Later that day at the North Bridge at 9:30 a.m., 400 minutemen and militia gathered.

Farmers, tradesmen, shopkeepers, and even a few enslaved men accompanying their owners made up this company. They watched and waited as British troops searched the town center. Ninety-six British regulars held the bridge between the center of town and the hillside.

With the sight of smoke rising from the center of town, Lieutenant Joseph Hosmer cried out, “Will you let them burn the town down?” The officers then advanced the men to the bridge to save the town.

As they arrived to cross the bridge, they met some light resistance. Then came the first order to fire by Colonists upon British troops which killed two British soldiers, with a third mortally wounded.

1836 Battle Monument

As the British soldiers marched back toward Boston, Colonial militia companies poured in. Fighting erupted along the “Battle Road” all the way back to Boston from 12:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. as nearly 4,000 colonists unleashed fire upon the British Regulars.

At the end of the day, the Colonists surrounded and laid siege to Boston.

“Here began the separation of two kindred nations now happily long united in peace.”       —Allen French

Three companies of British Regulars (about 96 men) guarding the North Bridge opened fire upon 400 Colonists advancing from the opposite side. Major John Buttrick of Concord then issued the fateful command. “Fire, fellow soldiers, for God’s sake fire!”

For the first time, Colonists were ordered to fire upon the army of their King, and, for the first time, they killed British soldiers.

Ralph Waldo Emerson immortalized this event in his 1837 poem “The Concord Hymn.”

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,

Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,

Here once the embattled farmers stood,

And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;

Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;

And Time the ruined bridge has swept

Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,

We set to-day a votive stone;

That memory may their deed redeem,

When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare

To die, and leave their children free,

Bid Time and Nature gently spare

The shaft we raise to them and thee.

The Ralph Waldo Emerson House, Concord

There is a small memorial at the site for the British soldiers saying: “They came three thousand miles, and died, To keep the Past upon its throne: Unheard, beyond the ocean tide, Their English mother made her moan.”

The Grave of British Soldiers at the North Bridge

What were these ideals?

While the Declaration of Independence would not come until 15 months later in Philadelphia the ideals that would buoy it were present from the start.

John Adams expressed his sentiments and thinking of the time this way in a letter to Hezekiah Niles February 13, 1818.

“But what do We mean by the American Revolution? Do We mean the American War? The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the Minds and Hearts of the People…..But when they Saw those Powers renouncing all the Principles of Authority, and bent up on the destruction of all the Securities of their Lives, Liberties and Properties, they thought it their Duty to pray for the Continental Congress and all the thirteen State Congresses, &c.”

In the name of liberty—meaning their traditional liberties as Englishmen—they were willing to go to war against the tyranny of the English Parliamentary government which denied them their right to self-govern, self-defense, and self-determination as they had become accustomed. Community and Colonial unity also informed and animated this cause of action.

The movement toward liberty benefited from superb leadership in John and Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Warren, Richard Henry Lee, George Washington—who took command of the militia and army July 3rd, 1775. These men could articulate the vision. They possessed a bedrock of natural rights and political principles. They held a strong moral compass and sense of justice. They then build a consensus to support the vision.

Sacred to Liberty and the Rights of mankind!!! The Freedom & Independence of America. Sealed and defended with the blood of her sons. The Monument is erected By the inhabitants of Lexington, Under the patronage & at the expense of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, To the memory of heir Fellow Citizens, Ensign Robert Munroe, Mess’s Jonas Parker, Samuel Hadley, Jonathan Harrington Jun., Isaac Muzzy, Caleb Harrington and John Brown of Lexington, & Asahel Porter of Woburn, Who fell on this field, the first Victims to the Sword of British Tyranny & Oppression. On the morning of the ever memorable Nineteenth of April. An. Dom. 1775 The Die was cast!!! The blood of these martyrs. In the cause of God & their Country. Was the Cement of the Union of these States, then Colonies; & gave the spring to the spirit. Firmness And resolution of their Fellow Citizens. They rose as one man, to revenge their brethren’s Blood and at the point of the sword to asset & Defend their native Rights. The nobly dar’d to be free!! The contest was long, bloody & affecting Righteous Heaven approved the solemn appeal; Victory crowned their arms; and The Peace, Liberty & Independence of the United States of America, was their glorious reward. Built in the year 1799.

—Inscription on the Lexington Revolutionary War Monument

To commemorate this day, this flag is now flown on The Lexington Green by law for 24 hours a day 7 days a week—one of the few flags in the United States mandated to do so.

These monuments to “the shot heard round the world” ask us an important question today: do we possess the character, courage and understanding of liberty and freedom to merit them and the price it costs to obtain, retain and defend them?

What a solemn and sobering experience to walk these parks and read these monuments. Remember and reflect on this sacred trust we now hold.

Liberty and Education

What a week we had—from the cradle of liberty and education to the commencement ceremony for my 90-year-old mother who graduated with her degree in professional studies.

We spent much of spring break in Boston with part of our family and seven of our grandchildren. I have talked much about how our children’s and grandchildren’s educations are directly related to our own motivation and pursuit of knowledge. It was a privilege to put action to that principle and learn and grow alongside some of the most important people in my life.

First Stop: Stepping into the life of John and Abigail Adams

John Adams was born in 1735 in the house at the rear of this lot. His son John Quincy was born in 1767 at the home in the foreground. It was here that Abigail managed the house and farm for several years during the American Revolutionary War. In this house John Adams drafted the Massachusetts State Constitution with the separation of powers that would be the model of the United States Constitution. He wrote at the time, “I should have thought myself the Happiest man in the world, if I could have retired to my little hut and forty Acres, and lived on Potatoes and Seaweed.” Abigail wrote, “If what I enjoy I can share with my partner and with Liberty, I can sing o be joyfull and sit down content.”

It was here that a cairn (heap of stones) was erected to honor Abigail Adams who was charged by John while he was in Philadelphia to “Fly to the woods or take Quincy to the top of Penn’s Hill” to witness the Battle of Bunker Hill June 17, 1775. She wrote, “the decisive Day is come on which the fate of America depends.” Though the battle took place 13 miles away, she stated, “the constant roar of the cannon is so distressing we cannot Eat, Drink or Sleep.”

At age 78 John Quincy Adams retained a vivid memory of that day. “I saw with my own eyes those fires, and heard Britannia’s thunders in the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, and witnessed the tears of my mother and mingled with them my own, at the fall of Warren a dear friend of my father, and a beloved Physician to me.”

Next Stop: A Home at Peace Field

After the war, John and Abigail acquired this home in 1788 after John’s time as U.S. ambassador to England. In September of 1796, he wrote, “I think to christen my Place by the Name of Peace field, in commemoration of the Peace which I assisted in making in 1788, of the thirteen Years Peace and Neutrality which I have contributed to preserve, and of the constant Peace and Tranquility which I have enjoyed in this residence.”

In the back of the home were the early spring flowers spontaneously sprouting from the ground—a reminder that spring and Easter, and the new life they represent, were here.

At the front of the home was a plaque admonishing and inviting our education.

An Inspiration in the Pursuit of Education

My mother took up the admonition “Let us dare to read, think, speak and write” at the age of 87 while simultaneously being treated for cancer for the second time. She graduated at age 90 this week. Only three weeks ago, she was in the hospital with pneumonia and was not responding well to the treatments. Providence intervened and she was spared. At the time, I thought of the 23 Psalm and that she was indeed walking “through the valley of the shadow of death…” She did recover thankfully and moved swiftly to catch up her homework and make graduation in time.

I am so very proud of my mother’s accomplishment and implicit invitation to her posterity to never give up or lose hope in your dreams and what you can accomplish. She shared her educational sentiments on a notecard with her 33 grandchildren, 98 great grandchildren and three great, great grandchildren.

Each grandchild received a “key”—key tie tacks for the boys and key necklaces for the girls. With each memento the note read: “Education is the key that unlocks the door to a more abundant life. Study and learn all you can about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for His Way is The Path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come.”

I sent her this poem by Robert Frost today, reminding her of the miles she still has left to go.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

She sent me this beautiful poem by Dora Johnson in reply. She has scores of poems memorized and poetry rolls off her tongue and memory like conversation with an old friend.

You tell me I am getting old, I tell you “That’s not so.”

The house I live in is worn out and this of course I know.

It’s been around a long time — it’s weathered many a gale.

I’m not surprised you think that it is getting somewhat frail.

The colors changing on the roof — the windows are growing dim —

The walls a bit transparent and looking rather thin.

The foundation is not as steady as once it used to be.

Yes, my house is growing old, but my house isn’t me.

The dweller in my little house is young, spry, and full of love and trust

Knowing that even though this little house will soon crumble & fall to the earth in dust.

One day, twill be restored — resurrected, just like new

And I will enter my little house with a panoramic view

Of all my loved ones as far as the eye can see

Once again together for all eternity.

What a mother, mentor, and friend. I love her so much! Education is the great liberator of mankind.

An Invitation to Change the World

A few weeks ago, Linda came home from a used bookstore with a few extraordinary discoveries. It was a set of books called Gateway to the Great Books.

You may be asking yourself, what does this have to do with a Revolution in Education and “coming out of the cave?”

The letter to the reader from the time of the set’s publication in 1963 suggested that there were two objects that consume our time: work and distraction in the form of “fun.” The author, Robert Hutchins, went on to clarify that his quarrel was not with fun but the conception of it and its too prominent role among the aims of life. He argues that the trouble with fun is “that it is boring.”

“It is simply not possible to spend more than a certain number of hours, days, weeks, or years having fun. And when the funster looks back over what he has done, he can only sigh and recognize, often too late, his stupidity,” Hutchins asserts.

I saw this firsthand as a financial advisor for 40 years. There is only so much golf, tennis, travel, or bridge one can play before boredom and lack of purpose ensue. One of the primary objectives of financial independence must be engagement in learning and purpose—an idea that few see coming but most eventually learn. Why is this? Hutchins would argue that, unlike for animals, the human mind must be active and engaged to thrive. Absent mental exercise we atrophy, lose purpose, and die sooner than we should.

Hutchins goes on to point out that the greatest human fun is discovery—or as Aristotle taught, “All men by nature desire to know.” He continues, “The most enduring human pleasure is the discovery and rediscovery of possible worlds.” Hutchins quips that he himself is antediluvian, meaning he “lived before the Flood, the flood brought on by Technology, Affluence, and Advertising.”

What does Hutchins mean by this? He is saying that we need to find balance in our lives. This is his invitation to find deeper meaning and purpose to living—to come out of the cave into the light of learning and discovery. To me it further means asking, What is life teaching me these days? Or as I recently rhetorically asked myself and others, “What is the most beautiful thing you have ever learned, discovered, or observed? Why? And how did you know it?”

Hutchins also points out that he and co-editor Mr. Adler had taken the liberty to provide us all with books that speak to every interest and level. We are then invited to the feast with the most interesting people who have ever lived. We can sit side by side with the thoughts that took the Greats decades to discover, only we get to consume them in a few hours.

Over the years I have heard many ask What use is education, learning, or going to school? It depends on what you want. One of the most useless types of education is that which is focused on current knowledge and practices. This type of learning teaches you rote facts or drills. The kind of learning that happens in great books or classics is an understanding of how to think and solve problems. If we want happiness, a life of abundance, or joy we must learn the principles that govern those higher forms of what I might even call enduring fun or unremitting joy.

While on vacation a few weeks ago I was thinking about these three ideas: happiness, joy and the abundant life. I noticed that happiness as Aristotle taught is obtained by conforming our lives to cultivation of the cardinal virtues of courage, justice, temperance and wisdom as applied to principles of happiness. Joy finds greatest meaning when sharing our happiness with others. The abundant life is one where we have discovered our unique and special virtues, gifts or talents and give them all away as we serve others. Abundance is the “Boomerang Principle”—the more we give away the more we receive.

The feast of happiness, joy and abundance with interminable learning is the most fulfilling I have ever attended. My invitation is to invite you to the feast. Become a subscriber to Revolution in Education. Fill your mind, then give it away to others and keep the cycle going for the rest of your life.

To bring you along I have created a complimentary eBook consisting of some of my weekly blogs built around the theme of exiting the cave through unceasing education. It is for those who yearn to leave their circumstances or self-imposed prison or cave. It is designed to help you discover and understand that education and moral virtue can solve the problems and heal the culture of our time.

Welcome home to discovery and interminable learning. It begins with you and me.

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