The Oval: What History Teaches Us

Good afternoon.

If you have watched my show for just two minutes or met me for 20 seconds you know one thing about me: I love history. I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t stop talking about it. I love old things, I love relics, anything that came before me that history has blessed…I’m honored to see and hold.

Maybe that makes me odd but I don’t think so.

I think Americans love their history. We are a young nation but we love to learn about our past. And there is a good reason for that. Our past is where we discover who we really are as a nation, just as children inherit certain things from their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents. Our nation has inherited certain things from those who came before us. And it’s critical, we know what those things are. Otherwise, we leave our inheritance on the table. And it just will wash away.

That’s why I wish that the person who sits at this desk, and the people who advise him, took the time and topped thinking about the next news cycle, the next attack ad. And just stopped. And walked over to the bookshelf right here and read one of these books. They’re not just there for decoration!

They are there because our history tells us who we are. What we built. What problems we faced and how we overcame them.

The people who work in this office, not just now, but in every administration, ought to spend a lot of time studying history.

Because if they did, they would learn soon enough that some of the biggest problems they face are small compared to those which have come before. That some of the solutions they think will work have been tried and have failed before. That America may never have been perfect, but that America has been better than this. And America can be better than this again.

The problem we have Is that the people who sit behind this desk have so much going on around them. And they confuse action with accomplishment. They don’t spend time doing something that would solve a lot of their problems. They don’t read. They don’t study. They don’t learn from the past.

History is the greatest weapon against one of mankind’s strongest enemies: forgetfulness.

Forgetting is such a human trait. I go to the supermarket, and I forget to buy a gallon of milk. I come into the office, and I forget my keys in my car. Someone asks me: ‘Glenn, how old are your parents?’ And I forget. I have to think about it before I answer.

But forgetting to buy milk is one thing. Forgetting our nation’s history is another.

Let me give you an example.

This nation was once attacked on its shores and the enemy worked to infiltrate our populations. They placed in our cities sleeper agents. Gathering intelligence. Preparing for the day of attack. They watched. They listened.

So this nation took action. We discovered the plots.  We disrupted their plans. We found those who were guilty. And we hung them. Because in America, we have always believed that treason and treachery is a crime punishable by death.

Today, our nation faces a similar threat. The enemy has slipped past our thinly guarded borders. And we don’t know where they are.  But when we discover these plotters we don’t know what to do! We say: ‘There is no precedent for this!’ And so people sitting at this desk and working in this office - they simply make things up as they go along.

They bungle prosecutions. They expose vital intelligence. They give comfort to the enemy. And they allow treachery and treason to build further. All because they didn’t know their history.

They didn’t know that a prior administration – seventy years earlier –faced the same issue. Developed a plan. Took action. And solved the problem.

The cost of this historical illiteracy can be measured. It can be measured in the lives that have been lost. To terrorist attacks in our cities, at our military bases, all because our leaders didn’t study their history.

They didn’t read. They pretended like they were the first Americans to face a challenge.

But they were not the first. Not even the second.

The circumstances change. The cast of characters change. The culture changes. But in the end the challenges are the same.

Prosperity or stagnancy.

Freedom or dependency.

Justice or injustice.

Unity or disunity.

The individual or the state.

These are the choices that every American has known. Every generation of Americans has been asked to choose. These are not new choices. And our problems are not new problems.

What’s new is ignorance.

Ignorance of history.

Ignorance of what America stood for 236 years ago.

Ignorance of what America has learned in those years.

Ignorance of the successes.

Ignorance of the failures.

That’s new.

You can get ignorant by not learning. Or you can get ignorant just by being arrogant. By thinking you know more than those who came before you. By thinking that you know what you need to know. That’s arrogance.

And we see it today.

Wouldn’t it be great if the president sat behind this desk and spoke to the nation once a week for 43 consecutive weeks each time talking about a single president? One man, one president - five minutes. Just a little message about each former president.

Each time, saying:  “This president – Jefferson, Grant, Arthur, Truman… whatever…He led the nation for so many years. He tried to do these things. He succeeded here and he failed there. And this is what I learned from his time in office. So I thank him for his service to the nation.”

That’s it. Five minutes. Just a simple acknowledgement that nobody – not even the president – is above it all.  Above his predecessors. Above history.

And here is my hope: that if the current president, or any president, stopped to learn some history, stopped to think about what history teaches him, he might realize that America is better than he thinks. Is stronger than he thinks. More independent. More industrious. More capable of great things. That he does not need to wave a wand, give a speech, even sign a law that will solve a problem. That Americans are quite capable of solving themselves. America is better than its leaders. And that if Americans are trusted and if Americans are encouraged, Americans can restore this nation. Can rebuild it. Using the original blueprints. Using the original documents.

And just maybe if we had a president sitting at this desk who appreciated that history is the best adviser, we would begin to recognize that history is alive! And history is to be celebrated. Honored.

Let me close with one story, because it tells you why history matters.

This desk is called the Resolute. It was a gift from the British. It came from a ship called the HMS Resolute. The Resolute was a ship in search of the explorer Sir John Franklin in 1852. And on that search, deep in Arctic Seas,  it had to be abandoned by the crew.

Three years later, an American whaler, the George Henry, found it.  Broke it free from the ice. Towed it to port. And America restored it. Outfitted it. And gave it back to the British Crown as a gift.

The ship spent three more decades in service. Then it was retired.

Queen Victoria had an idea. She ordered that craftsmen use wood from the ship to make a desk. And she gave that desk to the president Rutherford Hayes. It has been in the White House for all but a few years ever since. And it has been in the Oval Office for nearly four decades.

Maybe it’s easy to read that history and think “Well, that’s just stuff that happened way, way back. And everyone in the story is dead!” And if you think that, you probably are bored by history. Or, If you’re like me, you love that story because it tells you something about a friendship and about national honor.

It tells you in one story: Why America and Great Britain share a special friendship. A friendship both nations have fought and died to preserve.

And from that story, you learn what it means to sustain that friendship over decades.

That story might have helped the current president when he was thinking about what to give as a gift to the queen and to the prime minister in his first year of office.

Maybe, instead of an iPod and some DVDs, he might have looked at this desk and thought: “We can do better. We should do better.” And for once in his presidency he might have avoided a mistake just by studying history. Just by acknowledging that he’s not the first smart guy to sit in that chair.

That’s how history is. It’s like an instruction manual for the world. An instruction manual for the president. An instruction manual on America.You can be president and not read the instruction manual, but you know how it is with instruction manuals. Whether it’s a TV or a mobile phone or a country, if you don’t read the manual, you won’t know how the dang thing works. You won’t get to use all the features. And in the end – it might break on you because you didn’t read the manual.

So even if our president won’t study our history, you should. Because one day, we’re going to have to fix this mess and it would be good if you’ve read the manual first.

Thanks for watching.

May God bless you, and may God bless this Republic.

 

 

From the moment the 33-year-old Thomas Jefferson arrived at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1776, he was on the radical side. That caused John Adams to like him immediately. Then the Congress stuck Jefferson and Adams together on the five-man committee to write a formal statement justifying a break with Great Britain, and their mutual admiration society began.

Jefferson thought Adams should write the Declaration. But Adams protested, saying, “It can't come from me because I'm obnoxious and disliked." Adams reasoned that Jefferson was not obnoxious or disliked, therefore he should write it. Plus, he flattered Jefferson, by telling him he was a great writer. It was a master class in passing the buck.

So, over the next 17 days, Jefferson holed up in his room, applying his lawyer skills to the ideas of the Enlightenment. He borrowed freely from existing documents like the Virginia Declaration of Rights. He later wrote that “he was not striving for originality of principle or sentiment." Instead, he hoped his words served as “an expression of the American mind."

It's safe to say he achieved his goal.

The five-man committee changed about 25 percent of Jefferson's first draft of the Declaration before submitting it to Congress. Then, Congress altered about one-fifth of that draft. But most of the final Declaration's words are Jefferson's, including the most famous passage — the Preamble — which Congress left intact. The result is nothing less than America's mission statement, the words that ultimately bind the nation together. And words that we desperately need to rediscover because of our boiling partisan rage.

The Declaration is brilliant in structure and purpose. It was designed for multiple audiences: the King of Great Britain, the colonists, and the world. And it was designed for multiple purposes: rallying the troops, gaining foreign allies, and announcing the creation of a new country.

The Declaration is structured in five sections: the Introduction, Preamble, the Body composed of two parts, and the Conclusion. It's basically the most genius breakup letter ever written.

In the Introduction, step 1 is the notificationI think we need to break up. And to be fair, I feel I owe you an explanation...

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…

The Continental Congress felt they were entitled by “the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" to “dissolve the political bands," but they needed to prove the legitimacy of their cause. They were defying the world's most powerful nation and needed to motivate foreign allies to join the effort. So, they set their struggle within the entire “Course of human events." They're saying, this is no petty political spat — this is a major event in world history.

Step 2 is declaring what you believe in, your standardsHere's what I'm looking for in a healthy relationship...

This is the most famous part of the Declaration; the part school children recite — the Preamble:

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.

That's as much as many Americans know of the Declaration. But the Preamble is the DNA of our nation, and it really needs to be taken as a whole:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The Preamble takes us through a logical progression: All men are created equal; God gives all humans certain inherent rights that cannot be denied; these include the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; to protect those rights, we have governments set up; but when a government fails to protect our inherent rights, people have the right to change or replace it.

Government is only there to protect the rights of mankind. They don't have any power unless we give it to them. That was an extraordinarily radical concept then and we're drifting away from it now.

The Preamble is the justification for revolution. But note how they don't mention Great Britain yet. And again, note how they frame it within a universal context. These are fundamental principles, not just squabbling between neighbors. These are the principles that make the Declaration just as relevant today. It's not just a dusty parchment that applied in 1776.

Step 3 is laying out your caseHere's why things didn't work out between us. It's not me, it's you...

This is Part 1 of the Body of the Declaration. It's the section where Jefferson gets to flex his lawyer muscles by listing 27 grievances against the British crown. This is the specific proof of their right to rebellion:

He has obstructed the administration of justice...

For imposing taxes on us without our consent...

For suspending our own legislatures...

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us...

Again, Congress presented these “causes which impel them to separation" in universal terms to appeal to an international audience. It's like they were saying, by joining our fight you'll be joining mankind's overall fight against tyranny.

Step 4 is demonstrating the actions you took I really tried to make this relationship work, and here's how...

This is Part 2 of the Body. It explains how the colonists attempted to plead their case directly to the British people, only to have the door slammed in their face:

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury...

They too have been deaf to the voice of justice... We must, therefore... hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

This basically wrapped up America's argument for independence — we haven't been treated justly, we tried to talk to you about it, but since you refuse to listen and things are only getting worse, we're done here.

Step 5 is stating your intent — So, I think it's best if we go our separate ways. And my decision is final...

This is the powerful Conclusion. If people know any part of the Declaration besides the Preamble, this is it:

...that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved...

They left no room for doubt. The relationship was over, and America was going to reboot, on its own, with all the rights of an independent nation.

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.

The message was clear — this was no pitchfork mob. These were serious men who had carefully thought through the issues before taking action. They were putting everything on the line for this cause.

The Declaration of Independence is a landmark in the history of democracy because it was the first formal statement of a people announcing their right to choose their own government. That seems so obvious to us now, but in 1776 it was radical and unprecedented.

In 1825, Jefferson wrote that the purpose of the Declaration was “not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of… but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm… to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take."

You're not going to do better than the Declaration of Independence. Sure, it worked as a means of breaking away from Great Britain, but its genius is that its principles of equality, inherent rights, and self-government work for all time — as long as we actually know and pursue those principles.

On June 7, 1776, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania State House, better known today as Independence Hall. Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion calling for the colonies' independence. The “Lee Resolution" was short and sweet:

Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

Intense debate followed, and the Congress voted 7 to 5 (with New York abstaining) to postpone a vote on Lee's Resolution. They called a recess for three weeks. In the meantime, the delegates felt they needed to explain what they were doing in writing. So, before the recess, they appointed a five-man committee to come up with a formal statement justifying a break with Great Britain. They appointed two men from New England — Roger Sherman and John Adams; two from the middle colonies — Robert Livingston and Benjamin Franklin; and one Southerner — Thomas Jefferson. The responsibility for writing what would become the Declaration of Independence fell to Jefferson.

In the rotunda of the National Archives building in Washington, D.C., there are three original documents on permanent display: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence. These are the three pillars of the United States, yet America barely seems to know them anymore. We need to get reacquainted — quickly.

In a letter to his friend John Adams in 1816, Jefferson wrote: “I like the dreams of the future, better than the history of the past."

America used to be a forward-looking nation of dreamers. We still are in spots, but the national attitude that we hear broadcast loudest across media is not looking toward the future with optimism and hope. In late 2017, a national poll found 59% of Americans think we are currently at the “lowest point in our nation's history that they can remember."

America spends far too much time looking to the past for blame and excuse. And let's be honest, even the Right is often more concerned with “owning the left" than helping point anyone toward the practical principles of the Declaration of Independence. America has clearly lost touch with who we are as a nation. We have a national identity crisis.

The Declaration of Independence is America's thesis statement, and without it America doesn't exist.

It is urgent that we get reacquainted with the Declaration of Independence because postmodernism would have us believe that we've evolved beyond the America of our founding documents, and thus they're irrelevant to the present and the future. But the Declaration of Independence is America's thesis statement, and without it America doesn't exist.

Today, much of the nation is so addicted to partisan indignation that "day-to-day" indignation isn't enough to feed the addiction. So, we're reaching into America's past to help us get our fix. In 2016, Democrats in the Louisiana state legislature tabled a bill that would have required fourth through sixth graders to recite the opening lines of the Declaration. They didn't table it because they thought it would be too difficult or too patriotic. They tabled it because the requirement would include the phrase “all men are created equal" and the progressives in the Louisiana legislature didn't want the children to have to recite a lie. Representative Barbara Norton said, “One thing that I do know is, all men are not created equal. When I think back in 1776, July the fourth, African Americans were slaves. And for you to bring a bill to request that our children will recite the Declaration, I think it's a little bit unfair to us. To ask our children to recite something that's not the truth. And for you to ask those children to repeat the Declaration stating that all men's are free. I think that's unfair."

Remarkable — an elected representative saying it wouldn't be fair for students to have to recite the Declaration because “all men are not created equal." Another Louisiana Democrat explained that the government born out of the Declaration “was used against races of people." I guess they missed that part in school where they might have learned that the same government later made slavery illegal and amended the Constitution to guarantee all men equal protection under the law. The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were an admission of guilt by the nation regarding slavery, and an effort to right the wrongs.

Yet, the progressive logic goes something like this: many of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, including Thomas Jefferson who wrote it, owned slaves; slavery is evil; therefore, the Declaration of Independence is not valid because it was created by evil slave owners.

It's a sad reality that the left has a very hard time appreciating the universal merits of the Declaration of Independence because they're so hung up on the long-dead issue of slavery. And just to be clear — because people love to take things out of context — of course slavery was horrible. Yes, it is a total stain on our history. But defending the Declaration of Independence is not an effort to excuse any aspect of slavery.

Okay then, people might say, how could the Founders approve the phrase “All men are created equal," when many of them owned slaves? How did they miss that?

They didn't miss it. In fact, Thomas Jefferson included an anti-slavery passage in his first draft of the Declaration. The paragraph blasted King George for condoning slavery and preventing the American Colonies from passing legislation to ban slavery:

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights to life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere... Determined to keep open a market where men should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce.

We don't say “execrable" that much anymore. It means, utterly detestable, abominable, abhorrent — basically very bad.

Jefferson was upset when Georgia and North Carolina threw up the biggest resistance to that paragraph. Ultimately, those two states twisted Congress' arm to delete the paragraph.

Still, how could a man calling the slave trade “execrable" be a slaveowner himself? No doubt about it, Jefferson was a flawed human being. He even had slaves from his estate in Virginia attending him while he was in Philadelphia, in the very apartment where he was writing the Declaration.

Many of the Southern Founders deeply believed in the principles of the Declaration yet couldn't bring themselves to upend the basis of their livelihood. By 1806, Virginia law made it more difficult for slave owners to free their slaves, especially if the owner had significant debts as Jefferson did.

At the same time, the Founders were not idiots. They understood the ramifications of signing on to the principles described so eloquently in the Declaration. They understood that logically, slavery would eventually have to be abolished in America because it was unjust, and the words they were committing to paper said as much. Remember, John Adams was on the committee of five that worked on the Declaration and he later said that the Revolution would never be complete until the slaves were free.

Also, the same generation that signed the Declaration started the process of abolition by banning the importation of slaves in 1807. Jefferson was President at the time and he urged Congress to pass the law.

America has an obvious road map that, as a nation, we're not consulting often enough.

The Declaration took a major step toward crippling the institution of slavery. It made the argument for the first time about the fundamental rights of all humans which completely undermined slavery. Planting the seeds to end slavery is not nearly commendable enough for leftist critics, but you can't discount the fact that the seeds were planted. It's like they started an expiration clock for slavery by approving the Declaration. Everything that happened almost a century later to end slavery, and then a century after that with the Civil Rights movement, flowed from the principles voiced in the Declaration.

Ironically for a movement that calls itself progressive, it is obsessed with retrying and judging the past over and over. Progressives consider this a better use of time than actually putting past abuses in the rearview and striving not to be defined by ancestral failures.

It can be very constructive to look to the past, but not when it's used to flog each other in the present. Examining history is useful in providing a road map for the future. And America has an obvious road map that, as a nation, we're not consulting often enough. But it's right there, the original, under glass. The ink is fading, but the words won't die — as long as we continue to discuss them.

'Good Morning Texas' gives exclusive preview of Mercury One museum

Screen shot from Good Morning Texas

Mercury One is holding a special exhibition over the 4th of July weekend, using hundreds of artifacts, documents and augmented reality experiences to showcase the history of slavery — including slavery today — and a path forward. Good Morning Texas reporter Paige McCoy Smith went through the exhibit for an exclusive preview with Mercury One's chief operating officer Michael Little on Tuesday.

Watch the video below to see the full preview.

Click here to purchase tickets to the museum (running from July 4 - 7).

Over the weekend, journalist Andy Ngo and several other apparent right-leaning people were brutally beaten by masked-gangs of Antifa protesters in Portland, Oregon. Short for "antifascist," Antifa claims to be fighting for social justice and tolerance — by forcibly and violently silencing anyone with opposing opinions. Ngo, who was kicked, punched, and sprayed with an unknown substance, is currently still in the hospital with a "brain bleed" as a result of the savage attack. Watch the video to get the details from Glenn.