Thank you, Governor Carlin.
As a partner in the “People’s Vote” and “Our Documents” initiative, National History Day is proud to serve as the education arm of the project and help young Americans come to a better understanding of their nation’s past and the meaning of good citizenship and democracy.
Through the Our Documents initiative, National History Day is helping teachers return these milestone documents to their proper place in the classroom and engage students in an exploration of the conflicts and compromises, triumphs and tragedies, rights and responsibilities, and the turning points in history embodied in these documents. Through “The People’s Vote,” National History Day, U.S. News and World Report, and the National Archives have helped these students practice thoughtful voting, teaching them that they must read, ponder, and debate before casting their ballots.
It is our sincere hope that when the next generation becomes old enough to vote in local, state and national elections, that they will do so only after thinking critically about their nation’s past and its legacy for the future.
There is evidence that Our Documents can inspire learning, and that there is indeed hope for our future generation. After participating in a lesson using George Washington’s Farewell Address, Rachel Ibarra, an eighth grader at Morey Middle School in Denver, Colorado had this to say:
When the class began to get into the Farewell Address, I found it interesting and challenging. I understood what Washington thought of political parties and his disagreement with them, that he believed that our country would thrive but only if it stays together, and how domestic and foreign policy issues are interconnected. I felt like all the time I took to work on this assignment was time well spent.
Brittany Hess, a seventh grader at Fruitvale Junior High School in Bakersfield, California participated in a lesson on Civil Rights, and wrote this:
We all cover segregation in elementary school but it was made so that it didn’t look like things were so bad. This was the “real deal.” We as seventh graders got exposure to the real world. The way this was presented made us want to keep exploring and learn more.
Especially telling, is the sentiment expressed by Britanny’s teacher, Lori Maynard, after engaging her more difficult students in reading the documents:
Indeed, the best moment of the lesson was when I gave a student who was “always doing what he is not supposed to be doing” the Declaration of Independence. He actually read it and was interested in it! None of my students had ever seen the Declaration of Independence, and all of them studied it quite deliberately when they had it in their hands. These 100 documents are a sacred part of our history as Americans. I did not realize how truly special they were until I shared them with my seventh-graders.
Our challenge now is to continue this exercise in understanding democracy and citizenship. Today’s announcement comes at the end of a major push to engage Americans in such a practice. The People’s Vote has been both educational and fun, and it is fascinating to see which documents Americans are thinking about. But this is only the beginning of the discussion. Our task now is to continue this conversation and encourage all Americans, and especially young Americans, to meet the challenge of forming “a more perfect union.”