Saturday, September 20, 2014

For Ourselves and Our Posterity

This past week was Constitution Day, a day when we in the teaching profession are called upon to teach something about the Constitution to our charges, to honor the anniversary of its signing. There's something quite inspiring about unpacking the meaning of the Preamble for third graders, and it's been on my mind ever since.
We the people, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.
What does it mean? What are the values laid out as the foundation for this great experiment upon which the founders of our country were embarking with no certainty of how it would turn out? I can't help thinking about how much care must have gone into the choosing of every word.

1) A more perfect union: The best community we can be. Together. United.
2) Justice: Law and fairness.
3) Domestic tranquility: Peace at home.
4) The common defense: protection from dangers, a shared sense of safety.
5) The general welfare: health, happiness, and good things for everyone,
6) The blessings of liberty: all the best that freedom gives us, secured, made sure not just for us, here and now, but for our children and our children's children - for our future.

As we set out to understand it in third grade, we asked the questions that were, essentially, the questions of the founding fathers: What kind of community do we want to be? How can we get there?  So simple and so profound. I imagined this group of people laying out their vision with those same questions in their hearts, not knowing that over 220 years later, their words would carry such weight and meaning and history - not knowing, but perhaps hoping. Hoping. "For ourselves and our posterity."

Every generation since has endeavored, in their own way, through their own challenges and mis-steps, to live up to those ideals, stay true to that vision, and understand it and reinterpret it through the ever-changing lens of evolving customs and events, in the hope of safeguarding it for future generations. "For ourselves and our posterity."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Memory from The Secret Garden

"One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands out and throws one's head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one's heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun--which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with the millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in someone's eyes.” 

-Frances Hodgson Burnett, THE SECRET GARDEN

In memory of Ben