Organization works to promote U.S. history - The Explorer: Opinion

Organization works to promote U.S. history

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Posted: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 4:00 am

Everyone knows that seeing something in person has a huge advantage over reading about it in a book. And, for our younger generation, it is 10 times more effective, especially when it comes to teaching them about history. Last week, a group of residents from Oro Valley gathered to start creating the Tucson chapter of the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. This organization is dedicated to taking our youth to Pennsylvania to promote ideals of a free society, recognize outstanding civic achievement, cultivate excellence in education and inspire tomorrow’s leaders.

Founded in 1949, the Freedoms Foundation is a national, non-profit, non-partisan, non-sectarian organization. The Freedoms Foundation provides a wide range of educational and awards programs for students, teachers and citizens to cultivate a greater awareness of U.S. history, constitutional rights, citizen responsibilities, student entrepreneurship and youth leadership development.

This is emphasized at the organization’s headquarters, located on an 85-acre campus in historic Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

To make the Tucson chapter official, Russ Schulz, executive vice president of the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, flew in from Philadelphia. In presenting the charter, Schulz explained the need for programs like the Freedoms Foundation.

Schulz gave one alarming statistic that stood out. He estimated that 40 percent of our youth don’t even know who the first president of the United States is. Somewhere along the way, our younger generations are becoming disengaged from history, and as a result, from politics and their civic duty.

After listening to Schulz, I did a little more research, only to find that the lack of knowledge of our country’s history doesn’t stop with our youth. According to statistics provided by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a high percentage of American adults taking a 33-question quiz had an average score of an F.

ISI showed that more than half of those surveyed knew that Paula Abdul used to be a judge for American Idol, but didn’t know the phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people” comes from the Gettysburg Address.

To be honest, I took the 33-question test at www.tinyurl.com/3w6kl66, and found I’m not as good in history as I thought, but I did know the basic questions.

To change this disturbing trend, we have to start with our youth, and after last week’s luncheon, it’s obvious that the Freedoms Foundation gets that. They raise money to send our youth to this campus in Pennsylvania, where they see and live history in person.

The local Tucson chapter is recruiting local residents to pay a membership fee of $35 each year to help promote the need for these children to go see the Valley Forge.

My hat goes off to Oro Valley residents Jerry Simmons and Hank Jepsen who obviously set up last week’s meeting to get things started in Tucson. This new chapter has started recruiting members, and will soon be helping Arizona’s youth take these trips to get a true taste of history.

Simmons said the new chapter could have just been confined to Oro Valley, but they felt it was important to make it a regional program, which means more people can get involved in the important project of promoting America’s history.

With the establishment of the Tucson chapter, there are now 31 chapters of the Freedoms Foundation nationwide, with more than 3,000 volunteer members.

To join this new program, contact Simmons at 219-8842.

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