The Birth of Alexander Hamilton

He was one of America’s most influential early statesmen and the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury. I’m talking about Alexander Hamilton. If you see him today, wish him happy birthday. He is 260 years old today.

Hamilton was quite a fellow. In 1787, as a New York delegate to the Constitutional Convention, he pushed for a strong central government, an idea to which he was committed throughout his life. As co-author of The Federalist Papers, along with James Madison and John Jay, Hamilton was the most staunch supporter of a republican form of government. The Federalist Papers ran in newspapers for over a year, when the states, still governed by the Articles of Confederation, were debating whether to ratify the proposed document.

On July 11, 1804, Hamilton was fatally wounded in a duel with former vice president Aaron Burr after a long and bitter feud. Three years earlier, Hamilton’s son Philip, had met the same fate on the very same hill in Weehawken, New Jersey.

Next week, we inaugurate our 45th president, arguably the most controversial man to ever fill this highest office. The 2016 election has brought a level of incivility like most of us have never seen. But as we look back, we can see we really have come a long way.

Whether you ascribe to the theory that America needs to be great again, or we already are, we can all agree we have come a long way. I can’t remember the last time a vice president killed a member of the president’s cabinet with a sword.

The Last Lunar Mission

The Apollo lunar landing program ended on this day in 1972, when the last three astronauts to travel to the moon splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean. Apollo 17 had lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on December 7. In July of 1969, after three years of preparation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) accomplished President John F. Kennedy’s goal of putting a man on the moon and safely returning him to Earth with Apollo 11.

From 1969 to 1972, there were six successful lunar landing missions and one aborted mission, Apollo 13. During the Apollo 17 mission, astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt stayed for a record 75 hours on the surface of the moon, conducting three separate surface excursions in the lunar rover vehicle and collecting 243 pounds of rock and soil samples.

It’s hard to believe all that NASA accomplished in just ten years, from the time of Kennedy’s pronouncement at Rice University in Houston, Texas, to the final lunar landing. It has been nearly 45 years since that historic moment. Amazingly, most living Americans have no memory of man on the moon. In this era of modern technology, the generation that trains the rest of us in how to use a smart phone came after what is arguably the most significant technological achievement of mankind – going to the moon.

For those of us old enough to remember Neil Armstrong’s “giant step for mankind,” the Apollo program represents far more than winning the space race over the Russians. It represents everything that is great about the American spirit. Sadly, since that day in 1972, we have never been back to the moon.

So this is a good day to reflect on that incredible day – December 19, 1972.

The Boston Tea Party

The biggest tea party ever took place 243 years ago today. In Boston Harbor, a group of Massachusetts colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded three British tea ships and dumped 342 chests of tea into the harbor. The midnight raid, popularly known as the Boston Tea Party, was done in protest of the British Parliament’s Tea Act of 1773, a bill designed to save the faltering East India Company by greatly lowering its tea tax and granting it a virtual monopoly on the American tea trade.

The low tax allowed the East India Company to undercut tea smuggled into America by Dutch traders, and many colonists viewed the act as another example of taxation tyranny. When three tea ships, the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver, arrived in Boston Harbor, the colonists demanded that the tea be returned to England. After Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused, Patriot leader Samuel Adams organized the “tea party” with about sixty members of the Sons of Liberty, his underground resistance group. The British tea dumped in Boston Harbor on the night of December 16 was valued at approximately $18,000.

What the colonists did 243 years ago remains at the heart of the American spirit today. They were all about fairness and democratic representation. As we enter a new year and a new presidential administration, these are unchartered waters. May God bless us with the same spirit and values of our founding fathers.


The Rushmore Report: What’s Wrong with Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State?

On one hand, Donald Trump’s pick of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State has come under fire. The head of ExxonMobil is being criticized for his cozy relationship with Vladimir Putin, his lack of diplomatic experience, and the fact that he is a corporate bigwig who champions fossil fuels even as many bemoan the growing threat of global warming.

On the other hand, Tillerson is touted as a world class manager who is well-connected with major foreign powers. He understands international economic variables as well as geopolitical and sovereignty issues. And by assuming the new position, he is willing to work for 1/145th of his current salary.

But there is more to the story. Great resistance is emerging – and it’s not what you think.

Social conservatives view Tillerson with a wary eye, and for good reason. These social conservatives are the base of Trump’s support (they voted for him 81-19 percent), and some of them are critical of Tillerson. There are two problems they have with Tillerson.

1. While Tillerson headed the Boy Scouts of America from 2010 to 2012, he helped persuade the organization to admit gay youths and leaders.

2. ExxonMobil contributes to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider of abortions.

Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, wrote a sharply worded message to supporters Monday. He wrote, “Tillerson may be the greatest ally liberals have in the new Cabinet for their abortion and LGBT agendas. To hear that Donald Trump is appointing a man who not only led the charge to open the Boy Scouts to gay troop leaders, but whose company gives directly to Planned Parenthood is upsetting at best.”

Evangelicals have been steady critics of President Obama’s insistence on putting LGBT rights at the center of its foreign policy and for permitting foreign aid for organizations that provide access to abortion.

Just how much Mr. Tillerson would actually push for such initiatives from his perch as lead diplomat is unknown, and he would  be serving at the pleasure of the new president, if confirmed. But by making this appointment, Trump may run afoul of Perkins, and millions of other evangelicals Perkins represents.

Tillerson will already face enough opposition to threaten his confirmation. Republican Senators McCain, Graham, and Rubio have all expressed serious doubts about his nomination, largely due to his ties to Mr. Putin. Now, with his left-leaning social views well-documented, one must assume that strong social conservatives such as Senators Ted Cruz  and Mike Lee may have a hard time voting for him.

Trump said, “Through hard work, dedication, and smart deal making, Rex rose through the ranks to become CEO of ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest and most respected companies.” The question is, with his pro-abortion and pro-LGBT background, will “hard work, dedication, and smart deal making” be enough to get confirmed?

One thing is for certain. There will come a time when social conservatives draw a line in the sand and stand up to the new President. The question is whether this is that time and this is that line in the sand.

We will know soon enough.

The Rushmore Report: Pearl Harbor – Five Things You Didn’t Know

The attack on Pearl Harbor occurred 75 years ago – on December 7, 1941. The day that “will live in infamy” is remembered by only 2.3 percent of today’s population. Of the 16 million American soldiers who served in WWII, only 855,000 are still with us. That is just four percent, with 492 dying each day. So this is a good day to reflect. I offer you five facts about the bombing of Pearl Harbor you probably didn’t know.

My dad served in the South Pacific during the War. I still have his Army trunk, uniform, and medals. WWII brings special meaning to me and my family. The proud service of my dad and his dad (WWI) are why I didn’t have to fight in a WWIII. I’ve been to Pearl Harbor. It is a sobering experience. I hope you enjoy the facts below, as we reflect on the ruthless attack that left 2,403 dead and 1,178 injured.

1. Some of the battleships sunk that day were resurrected.

Of the eight battleships that were targeted during the attacks, all but two were eventually repaired and returned to the U.S. Navy’s fleet. The USS West Virginia and the USS California had both sunk completely, but the Navy raised them, repaired them, and reused them.

Furthermore, bullet holes and damages from the attacks can be seen to this day at many of the active military installations on Oahu, including Schofield Barracks. Rather than repair or cover up the damage, the bullet holes serve as a reminder of the lives lost that day and as motivation for our military to never relax.

2. Veterans of the attack can be laid to rest at Pearl Harbor.

Survivors of the attack have the option to join their lost comrades and make Pearl Harbor their final resting place. Crewmembers who served on board the USS Arizona – which experienced the most devastating damage – may choose to have their ashes deposited by divers beneath one of the sunken Arizona’s gun turrets. Roughly 30 Arizona survivors have chosen this option and less than a dozen of the 355 survivors are known to still be alive.

3. The USS Arizona still leaks fuel.

The day before the attack, the USS Arizona took on a full load of fuel – nearly 1.5 million gallons. Much of that fuel helped ignite the explosion and subsequent fires that destroyed the ship, but – amazingly – some of that fuel continues to seep out of the wreckage. According to the History Channel, the Arizona “continues to spill up to nine quarts of oil into the harbor each day and visitors often say it is as if the ship were still bleeding.”

4. Servicemen stationed in Hawaii took care of the memorial during the 2013 government shutdown.

Servicemen stationed in Hawaii treat Pearl Harbor as a living memorial and have been known to rally around it when times are tough. In October, 2013, for instance, when the U.S. government shut down for more than two weeks, no one was around to take care of the memorial site. A spontaneous group of servicemen and their families gathered to tend to the seemingly abandoned site, raking, weeding, and mowing the overgrown grass. Their message, they said, was to all veterans: “We haven’t forgotten about you. We will not forget about you.”

5. Many tourists from Japan come to visit the memorial.

While most school children can tell you that the Japanese were responsible for the attacks on Pearl Harbor, not everyone realizes that the Japanese now visit the memorial in droves. Japan, now one of America’s strongest allies, is the largest source of international tourists to the state of Hawaii. They pay their respects at Pearl Harbor just as Americans do, and ironically, the economic vitality of Hawaii today depends largely on tourism from Japan.

When we think of defining moments in American history, we think of Pearl Harbor. What was once stamped into Americans’ memories is now mostly American history. Amazingly, the time that has lapsed from Pearl Harbor until today is the same as the span of Reconstruction to Pearl Harbor.

I suggest you find a WWII veteran today – though it may not be easy. Tell him thanks for saving a nation and freedom for us all. Then offer a prayer of gratitude for those who suffered and died – 75 years ago.

In all of American history, two words capture the heart of American greatness, birthed from the horror and tragedy of war.

Pearl Harbor.

The Liberty Bell Tolls to Announce the Declaration of Independence

On July 8, 1776, a 2,000-pound copper and tin bell now known as the Liberty Bell rang out from the tower of the Pennsylvania State House (now known as Liberty Hall) in Philadelphia, summoning citizens to the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.

Here’s the history of the most famous bell on earth. In 1751, to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of Pennsylvania’s original constitution, the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly order the bell to be constructed. After being cracked during a test and then recast twice, the bell was hung from the State House steeple in June, 1753. Rung to call the Pennsylvania Assembly together and to summon people for special announcements and events, it was also rung on important occasions, such as King George III’s 1761 ascension to the British throne and, in 1765, to call the people together to discuss Parliament’s controversial Stamp Act. With the outbreak of the American Revolution in April of 1775, the bell was rung to announce the battles of Lexington and Concord. Its most famous tolling, however, was on July 8, 1776, when it announced the reading of the Declaration.

Freedom demands a grand announcement. The Bible says of Jesus, “The Spirit of God is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18-19). Twice in that passage we find the word “free.” And here’s the good news. Those who have been set free in Christ are free indeed.

The Rushmore Report: The Amazing Thomas Jefferson

In light of the July Fourth Weekend, this is a good time to reflect on the life of a founding father. Thomas Jefferson was a remarkable man who started learning very early in life and never stopped. At age five, he began studying under his cousin’s tutor. At nine, he studied Latin, Greek, and French. At 14, he studied classical literature and additional languages.

At 16, he entered the College of William and Mary. He could write in Greek with one hand while writing the same thing in Latin with the other. At 19, he studied law for five years, starting under George Wythe. At 23, he started his own law practice.

At 25, he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses. At 31, he wrote the widely circulated “Summary View of the Rights of British America” and retired from his law practice.

At 32, he was a delegate to the Second Continental Congress. The next year, he wrote the Declaration of Independence. Then he took three years to revise Virginia’s legal code and wrote a Public Education bill and a statute for religious freedom.

At 36, he was elected the second Governor of Virginia, succeeding Patrick Henry. Starting at age 40, he served in Congress for two years. At 41, he was the American minister to France, where he negotiated commercial treaties with European nations along with Ben Franklin and John Adams.

At 46, he served as the first Secretary of State under George Washington. At 53, he served as Vice President and was elected president of the American Philosophical Society.

At 55, he drafted the Kentucky Resolution. At 57, he was elected the third president of the United States. At 60, he obtained the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the nation’s size. At 61, he was elected to a second term as President. At 65, he retired to Monticello.

At 80, he helped President James Monroe shape the Monroe Doctrine. At 81, he almost single-handedly created the University of Virginia and served as its first president. At 83, he died on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the same day John Adams died.

John F. Kennedy once hosted a White House dinner for a group of the brightest minds in the nation. He said, “This is perhaps the assembly of the most intelligence ever to gather at one time in the White House with the exception of the time Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

With that said, consider some of the brilliance of Thomas Jefferson . . .

1. “When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe.”

2. “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”

3. “It is incumbent upon every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.”

4. “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”

5. “My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.”

6. “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.”

7. “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”

8. “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

9. “To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”

10. “I believe banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.”

Mr. Jefferson, where are you when we need you most?

Surrender of Yorktown

The American Revolutionary War was essentially shifted to the winners column in October, 1781. Following successful land and sea campaigns of joint American and French armies in Virginia in early 1781, the British found themselves trapped on the Yorktown peninsula. British commander Lieutenant General Lord Cornwallis realized that he did not have the necessary firepower or forces to defeat the Franco-American army. His only hope was to escape. But Cornwallis’ attempt failed. On October 19, 1781, Lord Cornwallis accepted the terms of surrender. Though armed hostilities continued for the coming weeks, the Surrender of Yorktown signified the inevitable conclusion of the Revolutionary War. The British were pushed to the brink of defeat, and it would be a position from which there would be no comeback. The Americans’ independence was secured at the Surrender of Yorktown, this month in history, 234 years ago.

The Battle of Saratoga

The Battle of Saratoga provided a key early victory for the fledgling American Revolutionary Army. The Battle was actually two. The First Battle of Saratoga, also called the Battle of Freeman’s Farm, saw the American troops prevent the British from breaking through their lines in their attempt to join forces with their troops at Albany. A second attempt failed, this month in history, 1777. At Bemis Heights, the British again attempted to break through enemy lines, but were rebuffed by a more powerful Continental Army. By October 17, British commander John Burgoyne accepted defeat and surrendered. October was a significant month in early American history, as the Battles of Saratoga set the pace for American independence.

This Day in America – 1619

It is rare that we celebrate events from 396 years ago in a country that is 239 years old. But July 30, 1619 was no ordinary day. It was the day America elected her first leader. A full 113 years before the birth of George Washington, the father of our country, John Pory was elected assembly speaker in the Colony of Virginia. It happened in Jamestown, in the choir room of the local church. They called it the New World House of Burgess. Earlier that year, the London Company, which had established the settlement 12 years earlier, directed Virginia Governor Sir George Yeardley (appointed by England) to summon a “General Assembly” elected by the settlers, with every free adult voting. The 11 Jamestown boroughs produced 22 representatives who chose Pory as their first elected leader. On July 30, the House of Burgess (an English word for “citizens”) convened for the first time.

In addition to electing Master Pory, the assembly passed several laws, which required the confirmation of the London Company. These laws included one requiring tobacco to be sold for at least three shillings per pound, prohibition against gambling, drunkenness, and idleness, and a measure that made Sabbath Day observance mandatory. And with that, democracy was born in the New World.

We know that Mr. Pory was an administrator, traveler, and author. He is considered to be the first news correspondent in English-language journalism. He would explore Chesapeake Bay by boat in 1620. After his stint as assembly speaker, he returned to England, where is would live a life addicted to gossip and alcohol. But much of what we know of those early days in Virginia, we owe to John Pory, for he chronicled daily events in the Jamestown Colony in Virginia and later in the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts.

The democratic process is often called an “experiment.” But as we look to our future, let’s not forget our past. This American democratic experiment is not a mere 239 years old; it dates to this day in 1619 when 22 men gathered in a church choir room. They needed a leader, but this would not involve violence or manipulation. They took a vote. Master John Pory was elected, and democracy was born.