|NUMBER 288||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||JANUARY 2010|
At a time when American exceptionalism is under assault, Peter R. Breggin engenders gratitude and enthusiasm for the blessings of American citizenship in Wow, I'm an American! The writing style is simple enough for middle school-age children to understand, and the content is engaging enough to interest adults, making the book ideal for family reading.
The author begins with a reminder that the freedom citizens of the United States have enjoyed for over 200 years didn't "just happen," but is the result of the faith, courage, and fortitude of the colonists. The heart of the book is an examination of the lives of important founding fathers such as John Adams, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson, and how the principles of freedom, responsibility, gratitude and love guided their personal behavior as well as their political ideals and commitments.
Readers learn of the risks these men took to found a nation based on liberty and individual human rights. Many of the founders were successful, wealthy men of some reputation who could have chosen lives of relative peace and prosperity in the colonies, if they had been willing for themselves and their posterity to remain under the thumb of King George. Instead they risked physical danger, loss of wealth, and the safety of their wives and children to pursue freedom.
The founders' wives, too, showed devotion to the cause of independence. Ultimately some wives were imprisoned, some fled homes set ablaze by enemies, some lost a husband or son, and many more suffered great financial loss.
Breggin notes that of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, nine "died of 'wounds or hardships,' five were captured or imprisoned, twelve had homes burned to the ground and seventeen 'lost everything they owned.'" Yet not one signer or his family ever reneged on their commitment to liberty.
With all of his reverence and honor for the founders, the author does not deny or minimize their flaws. More than half of the founders owned slaves. Despite their faults and inner contradictions, these men gave us the foundational principles that paved the way for the end of slavery and later fostered universal voting rights. There remains much in their ideals, character and behavior worth studying and emulating, principally their pursuit of liberty and exercise of personal responsibility.