Last week the Massachusetts Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight heard testimony in support of MA Bill S. 1813: An Act establishing a commission on the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution.
As one of the pre-eminent keepers of the American founding story, and an organization dedicated to historic preservation, education, and the promotion of active citizenship, it was our pleasure to offer testimony in support of this bill. Written and offered by Executive Director, Stephen Ayres, the testimony below outlines why we believe a commission is necessary to help continue to find new ways to share our common history. If you share in our commitment to celebrate and commemorate this milestone in our history, please contact your Massachusetts state representative today in support of this bill.
Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five:
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
Honorable Senators and Representatives, my name is the Rev. Stephen Ayres and I am the vicar of the Old North Church. I come before you today to urge the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to “remember that famous day and year” as we approach the 250 th anniversary of the founding of our nation.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote “Paul Revere’s Ride” to unite a divided country on the eve of the Civil War. Longfellow understood that the core civic values embedded in the story of Paul Revere must be celebrated and reinforced if the American experiment in democracy was to survive and flourish.
In 1976, a divided America, recovering from an unpopular war and a failed presidency, celebrated the Bicentennial as a means to reunite the country around commonly held values of patriotism, freedom and justice. Here in Massachusetts, we welcomed the National Park Service to help in preserving and interpreting our historic sites. Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market were renovated, bringing new vitality to downtown Boston. New school curricula were created to teach our children the basic lessons of history and civics. President Ford and Queen Elizabeth led millions of visitors to see the Cradle of Liberty and learn about the sacrifices made by our forebears to establish the freedoms we enjoy.
In 2019, once again we see a divided America, with our common civic and constitutional values under great stress. We are entering a decade of major milestones commemorating the birth of our nation. Next year is the 250 th anniversary of the Boston Massacre. 2023 brings the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. 2025 brings the 250 th anniversary of Paul Revere’s Ride, the Battles of Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill, and the beginning of the Revolutionary War. As our legislative leaders, you have the opportunity to use these events to teach American history and civics. Other forces have and may continue to use these events to teach a divisive and false narrative about our country’s founding history and principles.
Last year the legislature wisely recognized the need to strengthen civics education. The 250th anniversary of the founding of our nation presents an opportunity to reinforce our common civic values for all citizens of the Commonwealth and for the millions of visitors who come to Massachusetts each year. I urge you to establish a 250 th Commission to remember that famous day and year and to renew the civic bonds that make us one nation. For
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.