Helping Kids Love American History

I love America.  I believe in America's Greatness and divine purpose.  In a world that is increasingly anti-American, I feel an urgency to do my very best to teach my children not only to love their country, but to serve, honor and protect it.  As R. Reagan said, this is the last stand on earth. If we lose freedom here there is nowhere else to go. (paraphrased!)

In the process of trying to pass on my passion for America, I had to stop and first ask myself where I got the passion myself.  How was it passed on to me?  Where did I learn it?  I don't think it came from public school, although school back then was much less anti-American.  And while my parents were both active voters and observed important national holidays, I don't think they ever really came out and said, "America is GREAT!  Love your country and what it stands for!"   But my parents did one great thing for my education that I am forever grateful for.  Ready for a story?  Here it comes.

When I was six years old, my parents drove  our family of six from Maine to New York to watch an outdoor pageant called The Hill Cumorah Pageant.  It tells the story of an ancient civilization living in the Americas, the records they kept, and how those records came to be translated in the 1800s by  Joseph Smith.  These records came to be called The Book of Mormon and are a key part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It's a true story, by the way.

It was a hot summer.  We were packed into our blue Peugeot station wagon, trying to maneuver the immense, dusty parking lot and get settled for the show.  Meanwhile, a salesman came up to the side of our car and asked if we'd ever heard of the Living Scriptures Audio Cassettes.  No, we had not.  Well, he just happen to have one of those old school battery-operated cassette tape players and some of the tapes for us to listen to in the car.  He would let us have them for a few hours and then check back.

Well, in a word, we LOVED the stories. They were stories about the Bible, about character training, about the Book of Mormon, and about American history.  When the salesman came back to get our reaction, we were enthusiastic.  But our enthusiasm fell when he told us how much they cost.  They were hundreds of dollars for all the binders full of cassettes.  Now, my dad is one of the best salesmen you'll ever meet, so this guy had his work cut out for him trying to convince my dad to buy those tapes.  At one point, he was even running along side our car with his head in the window, trying to persuade us that it would be the best money we'd ever spend.

Long story short, my parents caved and bought the ENTIRE set!   But I have to say, that guy was right! It was some of the BEST money my parents ever spent.  For the last 30 years my siblings and I have listened to those cassettes every night as we fall asleep.  We have memorized hundreds of hours of dialogue depicting the scriptures and American history. We would sometimes act out scenes that we had memorized from the tapes.  And we have competitions to see who can recite the most,or who can quickly identify a section of dialogue and continue with it.  And I can't tell you the immense satisfaction I've had  passing on this tradition to my own kids, sharing with them the stories that I was raised on, the stories that taught me so much about the scriptures and about the land I love.

There's a sad note tot his story, however.  Cassette tapes don't last forever. And they get lost or damaged over time.  So I am slowly, slowly replacing those old beloved cassette tapes with newer CDs of the same stories.   They are not cheap!  That's why it's taking time. But as my parents showed me, it's well worth the investment.

One other thing that I think  influenced my love for this great nation, was the tendency my parents had to move every few years. Yes!  Every time we moved I got to discover more of this beautiful country.  We drove from Maine to Idaho and back again.  We drove from Maine to Florida....and back again.  I went to school in Utah.  I've taken road trips up and down the west coast and now we've been in the northwest for the last decade or so. There isn't much of the US that I haven't seen!  I think getting out and experiencing this country from sea to shining sea has definitely endeared it to me.  There are still a few landmarks I need to visit. But I can still remember standing in front of Mount Rushmore as a young child. I remember watching the space rocket launch in Florida and how the ground trembled under my feet.   I remember all the camp grounds, all the vistas, all the historical museums and tourist shops we stopped at. They all combine into one big loving memory of this great land.

Of course, as I grew and studied more American history on my own, those memories combined with fact to create a very solid understanding that accompanies the feelings.  So it has been a combination of heart and mind.  And I seek to build the same experiences for my kids.  As they get a little bigger, I look forward to exploring this great land with them even more, and sharing the stories of men and women who made this country great. Stories of freedom, stories of divine intervention, stories of determination and resilience.  Stories of America.