The spirit and principle of sacred remembrance is vital to the preservation of our freedom and our moral heritage. If we are not careful, days that are dedicated and set apart for commemoration of that which is truly most important and memorable can lose their true meaning over time. For example, we speak of the “world’s greatest generation” and those who literally and in the most vivid and intimate ways experienced World War II first hand. They witnessed the combined forces of good and evil at war among all nations. As Winston Churchill stated, “Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization”…. and victory would enable the world to “move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.” Following that glorious victory, a grateful America returned home and by official act of Congress, soon added the words, “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. Also, under then President (former General) Dwight Eisenhower, “IN GOD WE TRUST” became our official national motto.

Today, we are similarly reminded of the tragedy and the heroes of 9/11 that have so profoundly influenced us as a nation. When attacked, America united in a spirit of deep patriotism and determined resolve in support of our leaders, our armed forces and our Country. It was, indeed, a defining moment of “moral clarity” for our generation. As William Bennett has written,
“In the wake of September 11, the doubts and questions that had only recently plagued Americans about their Nation seemed to fade into insignificance. Good was distinguished from evil, truth from falsehood. We were firm, dedicated, unified. It was, in short, a moment of moral clarity – a moment when we began to rediscover ourselves as one people even as we began to gird for battle with a not yet fully defined foe.” (Why We Fight – Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism, p. 10).
The War on Terror did not just begin on September 11th, 2001. It was preceded by the earlier bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, the bombing of the U.S. Barracks in Saudi Arabia in 1996, the suicide assaults on two American Embassies in Africa in 1998 and on the USS Cole at Yemen in 2000.

Remembering 09/11/01
Thirteen years ago, hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 hit the North Tower and thundered into the 95th-102nd floors. 76 passengers, 9 flight attendants, 2 pilots and the 5 hijackers all perished in the crash. 1 hour and 40 minutes later, the entire North Tower collapsed after the initial impact.
The South Tower was hit by hijacked American Airlines Flight 175 (the 86th-92nd floors). 51 passengers, 7 flight attendants, 2 pilots and the five hijackers all died in the crash. The South Tower collapsed 56 minutes after impact.
Hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 (believed to be headed for the White House or the Capitol) was bravely diverted by the passengers. 45 were killed when the plane crashed in a remote field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. 184 people were killed when a fourth plane crashed into the Pentagon. The victims there included 55 military personnel. Overall, the 9/11 death toll was 2,993 and 24 remain listed as missing.
As Pearl Harbor marked the World War II generation, 9/11 is forever etched in the minds and hearts of the current generation as a similar and tragic “day of infamy”. It has stirred and inspired our nation with a renewed appreciation for the price and meaning and blessing of freedom. From a wonderful book, Heroes, Fifty Stories of the American Spirit by Lenore Skomal, we are reminded of the more than 400 New York firefighters, paramedics and police officers who were killed in the line of duty as they gave their lives in the valiant rescue and firefighting attempts that saved thousands. Here are some samples of the heart wrenching accounts and personal sacrifice of those closest to the fall of the Twin Towers when the unthinkable happened:

Heroes of 9/11
Terrence Hatton was Captain of Rescue 1. He was one of the first fire fighters to respond to the call for help on the morning of September 11th. He rushed in to bring people out of the swaying infernos. He was carried out several weeks later, cradled in the arms of his fellow firefighters. His remains were uncovered in the five-story pile of rubble. He was found alongside another fire fighter from his unit, the two of them bringing the number of dead from the Rescue 1 Team to eleven out of its twenty-six total firefighters. The bodies of the two fallen men were draped in the red, white and blue of the American Flag. As they were carried out, rescue workers and firefighters removed their dust-covered helmets from their heads and saluted their fallen comrades.
Hatton had already demonstrated his bravery on numerous prior occasions. He was decorated 19 times in his 21-year career for bravery and successful rescues. His wife, Petrone, told all her friends and family how much she loved him and was proud to be his wife. Shortly after September 11th, she learned that her husband had left her with a lasting gift – a child. She was pregnant and would bring their new little baby into this world made better by the bravery and sacrifice of the baby’s father.
Captain John Perry did not fit the profile of a New York City Police Officer. He was a lawyer and a very articulate advocate who spoke five languages. September 11th was to be his last day on the beat. The 38-year old cop had taken the day off from the 40th precinct in the Bronx to turn in his retirement papers. He planned to start his own law practice. Instead, like so many other police officers that day, he bolted out of police headquarters when he heard that a plane had smashed into one of the Twin Towers. He wanted to help. It would be his last act. When the North Tower fell, he was buried inside.
Port Authority Police Officer George Howard was off-duty September 11th. He had planned to enjoy it. He was sitting in front of his computer at home in Hicksville, N.Y., when he heard that the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane. He didn’t think twice. It didn’t matter that it was his day off. Instinct took over. He left his home, sped to his post at Kennedy Airport and hopped a rescue truck headed for lower Manhattan. He made it to the Twin Towers moments before the second tower collapsed. A giant slab of metal took his life. His body was found in front of the place where the Towers once stood. “He didn’t have to go, but he did anyway,” said the Port Authority Chaplain. “George gave his life saving others, not only on September 11th. He spent a lifetime saving others.” Days after the disaster, George’s mother, Arlene Howard, presented her son’s badge to President Bush when he met with relatives of missing cops and firefighters.
It is anyone’s guess how many people could have gotten out of the Twin Towers safely but gave their lives to save others. Bruce Eagleson was one of them. A Vice President of Westfield America, with offices in the South Tower, Eagleson was in charge of eleven employees. When the plane struck the tower, his employees were his first concern. He focused on making sure all of them escaped. Witnesses said he kept going back to the building, to the other offices, to make sure that as many people as he could find were evacuated. He was last seen returning to his office to get two-way radios. He thought it would help if they could communicate with each other as they descended the stairwells.
Alayne Gentul, a Mountainside, N.J. mother of two was another lifesaver. She was the Human Resources Director for Fiduciary Trust Company. She would have turned 45 on October 4, 2001. She was the kind of person people turned to for direction. That morning, the 700 employees who worked with her on the 90-97th floors in the South Tower of the World Trade Center looked to her once again. At that point, confusion reigned. The Fiduciary Trust employees didn’t know what to do. Nora Haldon remembers standing at the door leading to the 90th floor. She asked Alayne, “What do you want us to do?” Alayne responded, “Nora, everyone should go downstairs in an orderly way. Go now.”
Alayne held the door open as the other employees filed through it. Haldon remembers how calm Alayne was. Then Alayne went upstairs. She knew that the technical support employees on the 97th floor were busy backing up all electronic records of client accounts, trades and money transfers. People who knew Alayne well weren’t surprised at all that she went upstairs to evacuate the others. “It was her nature to always put other people first”, said her friend, Allison Katz, a manager in her Department.
Alayne called her husband, Jeff, from the 97th floor. She told them that she found 8 employees huddled there and holding wet clothes over their mouths. Smoke was pouring in through the vents. They didn’t know what was happening. Had the fire spread from the other Tower? Were they better off staying or leaving? “I’m not sure we can get out,” she told her husband. He was the Dean of Students at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He stayed on the phone with his wife and called out for his colleagues to help. Someone called the 9/11 operators to let them know Alayne and others were trapped on the 97th floor. The South Tower security guard recommended that they try to leave the building. Another gave advice on how to trip the sprinkler system but his advice didn’t work. The group decided to try to evacuate. They were running out of time.
Alayne told her husband she was scared. She let him know how much she loved him and asked him to tell the same to her two sons, Alex, 12, and Robby, 8. They were the lights of her life. She would leave home at 6:30 every morning so she could return in time to put dinner on the table for her family at a reasonable hour. She “did for them” on the weekends, biking with them and playing their favorite games.
While they were on the phone, Jack Gentul said he heard a large explosion. He later assumed it was American Airlines Flight 175, a Boeing 757 that slammed into the South Tower below the floors where the Fiduciary Trust Company had its offices. He knew he had to let his wife go after they expressed their love for each other, over and over again. He later told the newspaper that it was the hardest thing he had ever done in his entire life. He paced his office, prayed fervently that his wife and her colleagues would safely make it out alive.
Nora Haldon was about a block away from the South Tower when the second plane hit. She looked back when she heard the explosion. “I knew Alayne would still be there,” said Haldon. “As long as there were still people upstairs, she wouldn’t come out. That was just Alayne.” She knew Alayne would never make it out now. This very special woman – who taught Sunday School to little children for nine years at Community Church in Mountain Lakes, N.J. was soon gone. However, because of her, at least 40 other families did not suffer the pain and loss that her family did.
Thirteen Years Later . . .
It has been thirteen years since that momentous morning when the news flashed all around the world of the evil act of terrorism committed against the United States of America. From President George W. Bush’s message to the American people:
“It is my hope that in the months and years ahead, life will return almost to normal. We’ll go back to our lives and routines and that is good. Even grief recedes with time and grace. But our resolve must not pass. Each of us will remember what happened that day, and to whom it happened. We’ll remember the moment when the news came – where we were and what we were doing. Some will remember the image of a fire, or a story of rescue. Some will carry memories of a face and a voice gone forever . . .
Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war and we know that God is not neutral between them. …. In all that lies before us, may God grant us wisdom, and may He watch over the United States of America.”

Home of the Brave
Our national motto, “IN GOD WE TRUST” must never be forgotten or neglected. It must be an enduring reality in our blessed nation. 9/11 will always be a day to remember and honor the freedom and bravery of America and the memory of the heroes of 9/11.

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24th Dec, 2011

Merry Christmas To All

 

December 23, 2011

Dear Friends,

Christmas is such a beautiful time of year when good will abounds and mankind is truly at his best. There is so much in the world that is beautiful and stirs our souls with continuing appreciation for all we have been given. However, there is also sorrow and hardship. Brave and loving parents shield their children from the worries of life. They will likely never know until they are much older the pressures and heavy responsibilities their parents quietly carried within as they brought their family together to share in all the joyful and tender feelings of the Christmas season.

Charles Dickens said, “It’s good to be children sometimes and never better than at Christmas when its Mighty Founder was a child himself.” The sweet and wonderful blend of purity, innocence, faith, hope, trust and anxious anticipation are all wrapped up and evident for all to see in a child’s Christmas. Looking back, we fondly recall and may long for those cherished memories from our youth. As the poet Elizabeth Akers Allen wrote:

“Backward, turn backward, O time, in your flight,
Make me a child again just for tonight!”

Another poet, however, wisely replied:

“Backwards? Nay, onward, ye swift rolling years!
Gird on thy armour, keep back thy tears.
Count not thy trials nor efforts in vain,
They’ll bring thee the light of thy childhood again.”

As we grow and mature, our hearts are softened and our eyes are opened. We do not ask, “Am I my brother’s keeper” or “Who is my neighbor?” Ours becomes a much more “grown-up Christmas list” than when we were little and “visions of sugar-plums danced in [our] heads.” As the true message and meaning of Christmas settles in our hearts and minds and with the Savior’s birth, life and atoning sacrifice as our shining and guiding star, we can retain the spirit of Christmas all year long. That is the great hope of peace on earth and good will towards men. Wise men and women strive to see the world and all mankind as God sees them by looking upon the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). We dream of:

“No more lives torn apart,
That wars would never start,
And time would heal all hearts,
And everyone would have a friend,
And right would always win,
And love would never end,
This is my grown-up Christmas list.”

This Christmas, it is my sincere desire that every home and family may have the hope and firm assurance that the future for them will be as bright and as promising as the star that the shepherds saw and followed to the manger so long ago. That heavenly gift to all God’s children is eternal. Thus, I find strength in the knowledge that even though we do not know what the future holds, we know who holds the future. In our own way and as daily opportunities arise for each of us, we strive to do good and be instruments of mercy, kindness and giving whenever and wherever possible. That is the Christmas spirit that lasts all year long. The true message and meaning of Christmas is not about who comes down the chimney but rather who came down from heaven and who will come again as King of Kings and Lord of Lords and “wipe away all tears” and “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Romans 8:14-17; Revelations 21:4).

I have attached a favorite poem by Edgar Guest, which captures the Christmas spirit of both giving and “taking” (comforting and healing). Thank you for all the good you do. We send our sincere best wishes this Christmas and always.

MERRY CHRISTMAS.

LaVar and Sue Christensen Family



At Christmas Bit
Edgar A. Guest

If I were Santa Claus this year
I’d change his methods for the day;

I’d give to all the children here
But there are things I’d take away.

I’d enter into every home to steal,
With giving I’d not be content.

I’d find the heart-aches men conceal
And take them with me when I went.

I’d rob the invalid of pain;
I’d steal the poor man’s weight of care;

I’d take the prisoner’s ball and chain
And every crime which sent him there.

I’d take the mother’s fears away,
The doubts which often fret the wise —

And all should wake on Christmas Day
With happy hearts and shining eyes.

For old and young this is my prayer;
God bless us all this Christmas Day

And give us strength our tasks to bear,
And take our bitter griefs away!

From the LaVar and Sue

Christensen Family

A Thankful Nation Must Never Weaken or Let Go of its Firm Reliance on Divine Providence as the Source of All Freedom and Happiness

The spirit and tradition of Thanksgiving holiday in America is rooted in our nation’s miraculous victory in the great American Revolution. George Washington expressed his fervent hope that Americans would never forget God’s role in that great battle. In his first address as President, he said, “I am sure there never was a people who had more reason to acknowledge a divine interposition in their affairs, than those of the United States and I should be pained to believe that they have forgotten that agency, which was so often manifested during our Revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God who is alone able to protect them.”

No one was a more direct and frequent witness of the hand of Providence in the birth of our Nation than Washington who is rightfully hailed as the “Father of our Country”. He repeatedly assured his countrymen that God had intervened to rescue and preserve what he called “the sacred Cause of Freedom”. Unlike today, public expressions and demonstrations of faith in God and the Bible were routine for the Continental Congress. Throughout the War for Independence, they regularly called for national days of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer” and days of “public thanksgiving and prayer.” Throughout colonial America, there was a pervasive, deeply held belief that the Higher Law of God as revealed in the Bible takes precedence over the laws of man whenever the two conflict.

The heart and soul of America is reflected in a memorable comment by a veteran of the revolution who was interviewed at age 91. His name was Levi Preston. In 1775, he was a “Minute Man” – a citizen-soldier in the Massachusetts militia and engaged in the opening battle of the war. Although the Founders themselves were well read and experienced in the principles of government, the people were focused on those religious truths that had lead their ancestors to leave England at great peril and settle in the “New World.” When he was asked why Americans were willing to fight for freedom and independence, it was suggested by the interviewer that perhaps the people were motivated by the great philosophers of the day who spoke and wrote about the eternal principles of liberty? The old veteran looked up and replied, “Never heard of em’. We read only the Bible, the Catechisms, [the] Psalms and Hymns and the Almanack.”

The Continental Congress expressed the same faith-based belief and trust in God. In an open letter to the American people, the members of Congress described the Revolution in biblical terms:

America, without arms, ammunition, discipline, revenue, government or ally, almost totally stripped of commerce and in the weakness of youth, as it were with a “staff and a sling” only, dared “in the name of the Lord of Hosts,” to engage a gigantic adversary, prepared at all points, boasting of his strength, and of whom even might warriors were greatly afraid.”

As did the young boy David who prevailed in his battle with Goliath through faith in the God of Israel, America prevailed against the towering might of the British Empire to win its independence and become – in the words of George Washington — a place of refuge “for the oppressed and needy of the earth.” America did so through firm reliance on “divine providence.” As a people, they were motivated, disciplined and inspired by an unshakeable faith in their Creator. Today, that same enduring faith is expressed in our national motto, “IN GOD WE TRUST”.

Colonial Americans understood and fervently maintained that a citizen’s first responsibility is to live righteously according to biblical standards of morality. Biblical faith was the foundation of responsible citizenship. “[He] who neglects his duty to his Maker,” said Abigail Adams, the wife of John Adams, “may well be expected to be deficient and insincere in his duty towards the public.” David Ramsey of South Carolina was a member and President Tempore of the Continental Congress. He said that the people “looked up to Heaven as the source of their rights, and claimed [those rights] not from the promises of kings but from the parent of the Universe.” He also explained, “the political creed of an American colonist was short but substantial. He believed that God made all mankind originally equal: That he endowed them with the rights of life, property, and as much liberty as was consistent with the rights of others …. ”

When the King and British Parliament sought to tax the colonists without their representation, the Virginia House of Burgesses denounced all such “Intolerable Acts”. The Virginia legislators officially declared that the day on which the port of Boston was to be forcibly closed – June 1, 1774 – should be observed throughout Virginia as a day of “fasting, humiliation and prayer.” That resolution was crafted by a gifted young wordsmith named Thomas Jefferson. Virginia’s royal governor responded by ordering the legislators to disband and go home. Instead, they passed another resolution, this one calling for the creation of a continental congress that would represent the “united interests of America.” The united colonies next met and convened the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia in September of 1774. The creation of that Continental Congress would prove critical to the birth of the new nation. History thus records that the great coming together of the American colonies was triggered by a public act of faith – the vote by the Virginia House of Burgesses to declare a day of prayer and fasting and thanksgiving.

Despite the objections and threats of the royal governor, the Virginia legislature published their prayer and fasting resolution in the newspapers so that the people of Virginia could all participate. On June 1, 1774, countless faithful citizens did so. They dropped all other duties to attend church and express their profound Thanksgiving in common prayer for their families and their countrymen. Among them was George Washington, who wrote in his diary, “Went to church and fasted all day.”

Washington’s most common and frequent reference to God was through the use of the term “providence”. He spoke of it often and expressed his firm conviction that America’s future would be forever determined by the “hand of providence”.

In our day, President Ronald Reagan quoted, “Nothing which is morally wrong can ever be politically right.” (The Notes p. 171). As moral justification for the bold act of declaring America’s independence, the Continental Congress formally and officially appealed to the “Creator”, “Supreme Judge of the World”, “The laws of Nature and Nature’s God” 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.” When that immortal Declaration was so bravely issued, the Commander-in-Chief had already left to assume his command in the field. He urged each soldier to trust God for their ultimate victory. “Let us therefore rely upon the goodness of the Cause,” he stated, “and the aid of the Supreme Being, in whose hands Victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble Actions. The Eyes of all our Countrymen are now upon us.”

On December 18, 1777, Congress again called for a “nationwide day of solemn thanksgiving and praise” in recognition of the recent victory at Saratoga. The people knew exactly to whom Washington was referring when he spoke so often of “Providence”. It was the God of the Bible. The leading dictionary of the day defined providence as “the care of God over created beings; divine superintendence.”

Throughout the long ordeal of Lexington, Concord, Bunker Hill, the Delaware crossing, Valley Forge and, finally, Yorktown, the elected delegates to the Continental Congress came and went and the composition of that Congress changed with each session. Still, the one constant was its many outspoken professions of biblical faith by the people’s representatives. A day of national thanksgiving was declared by Congress and “recommended to the several states” on Thursday, December 9, 1779. Consider the specific content of that humbling pronouncement in contrast with today’s Congress and the degree to which public expressions of religious belief in God are now being muzzled if not outright purged from the public square. Consider how blessed we have been as a nation when we stand firm and do not weaken or let go of that firm reliance on divine providence that gave rise to our nation and is the source of all future happiness and protection:

Americans were asked on December 9,1779, to pray and petition the Lord to “influence our public councils, and bless them with wisdom from on high, with unanimity, firmness and success; that he would go forth with our hosts and crown our arms with victory; . . . and spread the light of Christian knowledge through the remotest corners of the earth . . . [and that God] would dispense the blessings of peace to the contending nations; that he would in mercy look down upon us, pardon our sins and receive us into his favor, and finally, that he would establish the independence of these United States upon the bases of religion and virtue….”

Such is our history and our legacy of faith and trust and firm reliance on divine providence to the extent we live worthy of it as a nation from generation to generation. And what do we now see in our midst? Judicial amnesia and court ordered apostasy, I am afraid as prayer in schools is banished, Normandy and Arlington type memorial crosses are prohibited on public property as memorials to fallen heroes who sacrificed to protect the public and Christmas and nativity commemorations are similarly challenged in ways never before imagined. Still, atop the Speaker’s chair in the Hall of Congress in our nation’s capitol and etched in gold, are the words of our great American covenant: “IN GOD WE TRUST.” We are indeed a thankful nation and we must never weaken or let go of our firm reliance on divine providence. As we count and give thanks for our individual blessings, may the priceless blessings of liberty secured by our Constitution and the vital connection between public virtue and independence never be lost, forgotten or neglected.
NOTE: For an inspiring account of Washington and the Founders’ faith and emphasis on morality, religion and public virtue as the foundation of American greatness and the continuing trust owed by posterity, see By The Hand of Providence, How Faith Shaped the American Revolution by Rod Cragg.

PART I

CHRISTMAS 1776

Christmas 1776 was a very unlikely turning point in America’s quest for Independence. It came on the heels of a humiliating retreat from New York through New Jersey. Today, few people recall that bleak moment in December, 1776 when a most severe crisis threatened the very existence of the American cause of liberty. The Declaration of Independence was then only six months old. Thomas Paine then wrote his immortal words describing this critical period as the “American Crisis”. He said: “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of this country but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” The magnificent courage exhibited by Washington and his men that bleak Christmas of 1776 must never be forgotten.

The significance of that Christmas night along the Delaware River in 1776 was perhaps best evaluated and most vividly expressed almost five years later in a Virginia town near the Chesapeake Bay. The occasion was a victory dinner after America’s conclusive victory at Yorktown. As was the custom in those days, the victorious General Washington had just proposed a toast to the defeated British General Lord Cornwallis (the same man who had five years before driven Washington and his rapidly diminishing troops from New York and through New Jersey and across the Delaware to the safety of the Pennsylvania shore). The British General looked squarely in the eyes of the man who had been his skilled and determined opponent for more than half a decade. Who, better than Cornwallis, could accurately appraise the strategies and abilities of America’s commander in chief? All awaited Cornwallis’ answer to the toast from General Washington. Surely, it would refer to Washington’s ? victory in the concluding battle of Yorktown, which at long last brought an end to the war. However, instead, Cornwallis said: “When the illustrious part which your Excellency has born and the long and arduous contest becomes a matter of history, fame will gather your brightest laurels from the banks of the Delaware rather than those of the Chesapeake.” To what was Cornwallis referring when he described the “banks of the Delaware?” Many in the audience that night likely did not understand the reference but it was not lost on General Washington. His thoughts turned back to that Christmas night in 1776 when he crossed the icy Delaware and with his men were poised to achieve the unthinkable. The crossing took much longer than what he had anticipated. He began the march with his thinly clad men (many of whom walked barefoot on the frozen ground or wrapped their feet in rags). It was near 3 AM and it soon became evident that the Americans could not reach Trenton before daybreak. Would it still be possible to surprise Colonel Rall and his Hessian mercenaries who were considered to be some of the best trained soldiers in all of Europe? The watchword for the American troops was, “Victory or death”. Oh how real that battle cry was indeed.

Because of the bravery of these men and their heroic leader Christmas 1776 will be forever remembered as the pivotal moment when independence and liberty firmly took root in America.

To fully understand the whole story behind the miraculous victory at Trenton, we must understand the events that preceded it. We must go back to July 4, 1776, a most stirring day for the American cause of liberty. General Washington gathered his officers and troops and shared with them the momentous Declaration of Independence that had just been issued by the assembled delegates of the Thirteen Colonies in Philadelphia. Said Washington, “The time is now near at hand which must probably determine, whether Americans are to be, Free men, or Slaves, whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their Houses and Farms, are to be pillaged and destroyed, and they can sign to a State of Wretchedness, for which no human effort will probably deliver them. The fate of unborn Millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting Enemy leaves us no choice but a brave resistance, or the most abject submission; that is all we can expect. We have therefore to resolve to conquer or die; our Own Country’s Honor all call upon us for vigorous and manly exertion, and if we now shamefully fail, we shall become infamous to the whole world. Let us therefore rely upon the goodness of the Cause, and the aid of the Supreme Being, in whose hands victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble Actions. The eyes of all our countrymen are now upon us, and we shall have their blessings, and praises, if happily we are the instruments of saving them from the Tyranny meditated against them. Let us therefore animate and encourage each other and shew us the whole world that a Freeman contending for Liberty on his own ground is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth. . .”.

At that most hopeful moment, tens of thousands of hired German Hessian soldiers were arriving in America. On August 27th, the disastrous battle of Long Island took place. 600 Americans were killed and over 1,000 were taken prisoners. Setbacks continued throughout the Fall. By mid-November, the American troops were in a pitiful condition. In addition to the loss of troops, Washington lost substantial quantities of invaluable equipment and supplies. He was forced to flee across New Jersey. He had lost over 5,000 men during the past three months. He prepared to retreat across New Jersey with less than 4,000 men and somehow managed to escape being trapped by the British. On November 19, he wrote to his brother, John Augustus, “It is impossible to give you any idea of our situation. My difficulties and the constant perplexities . . . I meet with derive from the unhappy policy of short enlistments . . . I am wearied almost to death with the retrograde motion of things and I solemnly protest that a pecuniary reward of 20,000 pounds would not induce me to undergo what I do.” Daily desertions were a common reality. Washington could not help but feel discouraged in his efforts to get reinforcements both from the State of New Jersey and the slow and often indecisive Congress.

Washington and his men were forced to abandon their post at Newark New Jersey just as the British, 12,000 strong, were entering the City. The Americans were hard pressed to keep going and conceal their weakness. Washington was forced to rely on local militia from place to place rather than a true standing American army. The terms of enlistments of the Maryland and New Jersey militia were set to expire on December 1st. They demanded their discharges and left for home. This encouraged many more desertions. Many of the American soldiers, insufficiently clothed and fed, were bribed and persuaded to join forces with the well fed and well outfitted British. Enthusiasm for the American cause of Independence was as low as the spirits for the hungry American troops. Nevertheless, General Washington refused to succumb to a growing spirit of general gloom. He was always planning and looking ahead. To preserve such options, he was forced to literally burn bridges behind him as he retreated to safety and sought to block the British in their pursuits and attempts to capture them.

Alexander Hamilton, although not yet twenty years of age, became an experienced fighter and a loyal assistant to the General he loved and revered above all men. Washington’s army now numbered barely 3,000. Many of his men were without shoes, stockings and even shirts. Blankets and supplies had to be abandoned because there were no wagons to carry such equipment. Remaining tents were ordered burned to prevent them from falling into the hands of the enemy. The men could only think longingly of such abandoned tents and blankets as they lay close together on the bare ground. Most of the soldiers wore linen hunting shirts. They were filthy, ragged and infected. Fevers, pneumonia and dysentery were rampant. General Greene referred to their conditions as “beyond description and shocking to humanity.” There were no bandages or medical supplies. General Washington, himself, faired little better than his men. He too as well as his secretary and aides, often slept on the bare ground. As Thomas Paine had so movingly written, these truly were “the times that try men’s souls.” These Americans were no “summer soldiers”. Their greatest desire was that their fellow countrymen would turn out and help them drive the enemy back. They were united in a common cause and that was the cause of freedom. This was “the American Crisis.”

Washington reached Princeton New Jersey by December 2nd. From there, he led his barefoot and almost naked army to the edge of the Delaware River. He made sure that not a single boat remained in which the enemy could pursue them across the River. He personally supervised the destruction of all bridges and the filling of trees across the road to block the British in their pursuit. American forces crossed the river on December 8th. General Howe and the British troops were then marching into Trenton. The British could not find a single boat in which to pursue the Americans. Cornwallis led some of his troops up the river but they could find no boats to pursue the Americans. General Howe sent his men down the river but the answer was the same – “No boats to be found anywhere.” Among General Washington’s troops was a young James Monroe, age 18. He later became President of the United States. He was then a serious young officer with great promise. Colonel Henry Knox, 26 year old bookseller from Boston, had fought at the battle of Bunker Hill and would later serve in Washington’s first cabinet once the Constitution was adopted and the new government established. A Lieutenant Colonel of the Virginia Regiment was Chief Justice Thomas Marshall, father of the future United States Supreme Court.

In a letter to Congress on December 16, Washington wrote, “The clothing of the troops is a matter of infinite importance. Their distresses are extremely great, many being naked, and most so thinly clad as to be unfit for service.”

It was believed that the British had settled into winter quarters and, if so, that meant temporary safety for the Americans. One American soldier later wrote, “The privation and suffering we endure is beyond description. No tent to cover us at night; exposed to rains night and day; no food of any kind but a little raw flour”. He reported that when they managed to enter a Pennsylvania tavern and found attractive food items, which tempted them, the store keeper refused to sell them to them because their paper money from the American colonies was deemed worthless. These conditions explained why volunteers were so scarce. One reporter wrote that the spirits of the people seem much depressed and that unless something turned up more favorable, “I dread the consequences.” New England Governor Turnbull asked, “Is America to be lost? Is she to fall a victim to the rage of a lawless tyrant? Is New England to be subjected to . . . slavery? God Almighty forbid. . . . Our army to the westward is naked and barefoot, fleeing before the enemy . . . . May God give us the spirit of wisdom, forwarded to a resolution in this evil day!” Cornwallis was so sure of a quick and easy victory that he planned a trip home to England over the winter months. He would be back in the Spring, “If there is another campaign, which we doubt.” In England, it was believed that the war was over. Benjamin Franklin, in Paris, couldn’t overcome the French unwillingness to help a failing cause.

Washington was forced to fight essentially a defensive war. He knew that affirmative action must be taken but he did not have the resources to mount an offensive campaign or so it seemed. He had previously written that they must “on all occasions avoid a general action, or put anything to the risk, unless compelled by a necessity, under which we ought never to be drawn.” General Washington kept his numerable problems mostly to himself. On December 18th, disclosed to his brother, “No man I believe ever had a greater choice of difficulties or less means to extricate himself from them.” The game is almost up.” Still, he had an unshakable confidence in the justice of the cause and the fighting ability of his men and in an overriding Divine Providence.

The King of England hired some 30,000 German mercenaries (“Hessians”). They were told that they could find private fortunes in America and that they were free to loot and steal at will. They did so. They looted the homes and barns of the American colonists and they had no respect for private or public property.

On December 23, Washington wrote to his Generals, “Christmas day at night, one hour before day, and the time is the time fixed for our attempt on Trenton. For heaven sake, keep this to yourself as discovery may prove fatal to us. Dire necessity will, nay, must, justify attempt.” The watchword for the attempt was “Victory or Death” and victory or death it surely would be. Not only death to the American troops but also to the very cause of liberty itself. General Washington was keenly aware that his men, hungry as they may have been for food, needed spiritual nourishment as well. He had copies of Thomas Paine’s stirring words rushed to his camp. They were written just a few days before. He ordered it read to all the men and there were none who were not made braver by them.

The Crossing

Washington was set to cross the Delaware from McKonkey’s Ferry on the Pennsylvania side with a force of 2,400 men. Every officer was ordered to wear a piece of white paper in his hat to distinguish him in the darkness. As soon as darkness fell, the boats, which had been kept in hiding since their retreat, were brought down to the Ferry landing.

The diary of one of Washington’s officers captures the tension of the hour: “Six o’clock PM . . . . It is fearfully cold and raw and a snowstorm is setting in. The wind is northeast and beats in the faces of the men. It will be a terrible night for the men who have no shoes. Some of them have tied old rags around their feet, others are barefoot, but I have never heard a man complain. They are ready to suffer any hardship and die rather than give up their liberty.”

The snow soon turned to sleet. Bloody tracks in the snow told the tragic story of poorly shod, frozen feet. In the darkness, Washington directed the preparations as the men set out to cross the ice jammed Delaware River. Other regiments were forced to turn back but General Washington had his men successfully crossed the river. One officer wrote, “I have never seen Washington so determined as he is now. He stands on the bank of the river, wrapped in his cloak, supervising the landing of his troops.” In the midst of it all, the question of the ages lingered. Would this venture mean victory or death to the Country’s struggle for Independence? This was the early American crisis. Yet few were aware of it. The preparations were so difficult that it was after 3 AM and not the anticipated midnight when change finally began. The snow changed to sleet and cut like a knife. As the men marched towards Trenton, General Greene who was leading one column of troops sent a message to Washington. He wrote, “Muskets wet and can’t be fired.” Washington’s reply was brief, “Tell your General to use the bayonet. The town must be taken.” General Greene looked on with compassion when he realized that many of his men were without bayonets.

While the Americans drew close, the British enjoyed the peace and comfort of warm and ample accommodations on the Jersey side of the Delaware. Their military leaders received several warnings and news of isolated skirmishes that should have and would have alerted them to the coming attack if they were not so overconfident and complacent. Additionally, they were feeling the effects of the night of drunkenness as part of their Christmas celebrations.

When the American troops successfully confronted their Hessian enemies and trapped them with no pain for retreat, their humanity was demonstrated to a remarkable degree. They fired over the heads of their enemies and took not their lives. The Hessians threw down their muskets and the Americans jubilantly tossed their hats in the air. Victory was theirs in less than two hours after the first shot was fired. And, miraculously, in this swift attack, not a single American was killed. Washington and his brave men had proven beyond measure that they were indeed no “summer soldiers” and they deserve the “thanks of men and woman.” With that victory came a new respect for the American cause of liberty for which they were fighting and a new faith in its future. “This is a glorious day for our country;” Washington exclaimed happily as he rode down King Street in Trenton. The effects of Washington’s crossing of the Delaware and the American victory at Trenton was truly amazing. The self-confidence of British military leaders was shaken Confidence in the American Commander in Chief spread not only throughout the colonies but abroad. The Americans who had so long been on the defensive and expected a winter of constant alarm and attacks on Philadelphia but now it was the British who remained anxious wondering what move Washington would next make. The notion of British invincibility was shattered and the tide of public opinion turned. Recruiting was on the rise and belief in the cause of liberty soared. The momentum carried the colonists to success at Princeton and through the difficult winter at Valley Forge and onto ultimate victory at Yorktown. A renowned British historian later wrote regarding the “American Revolution” that “it may be doubted whether such a smaller number of men ever employed so short a space of time with greater and more lasting results upon the history of the world.”

PART III

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED FROM DECADES OF FEDERAL CONTROL OF STATE EDUCATION?

What do we have to show for all the Federal “assistance” (control) in public education? Between 1973 and 2004, when Federal spending on education more than quadrupled, test scores remained either flat or increased by only 1% among American seventeen year olds. Money alone is obviously not the answer to our quest for education excellence. Idaho and Utah (with large families and large per household education spending but low per pupil government spending) do very well among national test scores. The District of Columbia, however, with the nation’s highest per pupil expenditure (over $15,000 per pupil) scores dead last in student achievement.

Obviously, there are other factors including the stability of home life and the culture in which young people grow up that affect their overall well being, the quality of their education and, ultimately, their education performance. The Utah public school system is regarded as the most efficient in the country. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently gave Utah an “A” for return on investment and ranked our state as the highest in the country in that category.

PART I

Add the college student loan program to Washington’s latest takeover of private enterprise. In yet another government “makeover” or “change” that is supposed to give new “hope” to America, the runaway train engineered by Obama, Reid and Pelosi (all liberal democrats) has again through congressional slight of hand found a way to pass radical “reform” legislation. This is again done without debate or prior committee review and input to screen and protect against such abuse of power.

Remember the wit and wisdom of Ronald Reagan who said, “The scariest words in the English language are, ‘Hello, I’m from the government and I am here to help you.” For decades, the Federal student loan program has respected the role of private banks and other financial institutions in making low interest loans with deferred repayment schedules to help young people finance a college education and improve their station in life. The government’s only role in these “student loans” has been to provide back up in the form of guarantees. Lenders are then willing to make such loans and apply a relaxed set of qualifications for those who are just getting started on their chosen career path.

PART V

“RUNNING ON EMPTY”

Peter G. Peterson is a former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York.  He critiqued the state of the national debt and congressional budgeting process in his book, Running on Empty. He calls for a comprehensive long-term budget for the next 50 years and not just one year at a time.  He calls for Congress to enact long term cost control reforms in all its current major programs.  He emphasizes the need to use the “accrual accounting” method that is so common in the private sector.  It tracks long term liabilities but “Congress pretends never to have heard of it.” (    ).  They are allowed to ignore some unfunded retirement obligations and leave over a trillion dollars off of its annual deficit calculations.  This is part of the illusory accounting methods that make government less than transparent.

Peterson also calls for a “generational impact statement” that calculates and discloses the long-term effects of any new spending or tax bill.  He notes that “what often makes marriage couples stop fighting is a good look at their kids.  Americans need to ask [their] leaders . . . to do the same – to look at our kids.”  (p. 224-225).  He further adds:

“Citizenship means looking out for one’s neighbors and giving a hand to those less fortunate. But it also means understanding the big issues of one’s time, seeing past the hype and spin, and working together to hold political leaders accountable.  Your time is coming, and when it does, your generation, like every generation, will get the government it deserves.  If it is distracted by pseudo-issues and gridlocked by special interest, it will be because too few of you paid attention and made your voices heard.

PART III

“THE ONLY WAY TO KEEP GOVERNMENT FROM GROWING IS TO QUIT FEEDING IT” — Ronald Reagan

Today’s majority in Washington are willing to use deficit spending and the national debt to avoid tough decisions, which are often unpopular.  Resorting to more borrowing instead of making difficult but necessary budget cutting decisions provides the short-term cover and avoidance of political unpopularity that seems to be forever on their mind. The current uprising among the people, however, is beginning to blow that cover.  That is a positive development with great potential if it can be channeled into the corrective measures we sorely need at this time.

President Ronald Reagan said, “The only way to keep government from growing is to quit feeding it.” He pushed for the power of an executive “line item veto,” which he was able to use as Governor of California. When the Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, they tried to create and adopt such an added check and balance on Federal spending but the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that action.  Thus, today, we are left with outrageous “earmarks” (such as $200 million for an indoor tropical rain forest in Iowa) and the clever and less than transparent insertion of unrelated items into various Bills. This is shrewdly done to ensure passage and avoid a principled debate on the individual merits of such proposals.  (President Obama and the Democrat majority did that again recently to further their “sexual orientation” agenda.  They inserted unrelated “hate crimes” legislation into the military defense budget.  See prior post on this site in the archives, November 12, 2009).

PART I

1 Year and Counting

After a year in office and a record increase of $1.4 trillion dollars in deficit spending, the President now tells us that our nation is experiencing a “deficit of trust” in our national government. This is strikingly similar to former President Jimmy Carter’s description of the “malaise” he saw among the people but somehow could not understand or remedy.  Fortunately, Ronald Reagan soon followed.  He ushered in the return to conservative principles and reduced taxes. This soon spawned a soaring and lasting economic recovery.  “Malaise” gave way to “Morning in America.”  It will happen again if the people reject the flawed assumptions and government dependency offered by the current Democrat majority in Washington.  We must reclaim the vision and wisdom of former times and apply the lessons of liberty and principled government, which they provide.