Reflections on Presidents Day from our Headmaster, Part One

Written by Mr. John Dykes

“In reflecting on Presidents Day, I am drawn this year to remember our founding fathers and am especially grateful for our first four presidents and their contributions to founding the United States of America. President George Washington exhibited incredible resolve, moral wisdom and steadfast courage. His vice president, and our second president, John Adams had an incredible intellect, unflinching integrity, and firm visionary leadership.  The principal writer of our Declaration of Independence, and our third president, Thomas Jefferson was a renaissance man.  He is possibly the person with the most well-rounded abilities to serve as president.  Jefferson was an archaeologist, inventor, musician, naturalist, philosopher, a brilliant and extremely well-read student, and an educator who even spoke 6 languages.  Our fourth president, James Madison, was the leading researcher and author of our Constitution.  He also possessed a wide breadth of knowledge in other subjects similar to Jefferson, and he composed our Bill of Rights which assured our most basic rights as citizens.  He also was one of two key contributors to the Federalist Papers.

The founding fathers of our nation were exceptional because they stood on the shoulders of the giants who went before them.  They were classically trained and that training taught them from a rich legacy of historical, Biblical, and philosophical sources. These sources gave them a foundation of knowledge, which when combined with Biblical instruction, allowed them to gain true wisdom.  This knowledge of the past, and the rich humanist tradition that was passed on to them, allowed them to create the most exceptional nation ever to exist.  This success was achieved not on their merit alone, but by expanding on the genius of the past to create something unique and exceptional.

What they created was a governing system that was pessimistic about the failures of mankind, while also optimistic about how man can flourish under a system that honors life, assures liberty, and defends private property while securing the pursuit of individual happiness.   While greatly limiting the power of the government over the individual states and its citizens, they assured against the tyranny that they had suffered under British rule. 

Those founding leaders were taught to pursue that which was good, beautiful, and most importantly, that which is universally true.  Plato’s Republic, The Magna Carta, Montesquieu, Locke, Smith and his Wealth of Nations, and so many more were their benefactors and they generously contributed to the founding fathers’ incredible success.  Their accomplishments resembled the achievements of the 14th Century Poet Francesco Petrarch, and his contemporaries such as Erasmus of Rotterdam, who triggered an explosion of knowledge known as the Renaissance.  The founders created the greatest nation on earth–not through contemporary styled, inward-looking narcissism, but by looking at those who had gone before them and adding to what was already discovered, created and known to be wise, beautiful, beneficial, and true.  For the Renaissance Fathers, the explosion of knowledge began with the rediscovering of texts such as the History of Rome by Livy and the letters of Cicero.  It thrived on rediscovering of the cultures and learning of Greece and Rome, which had been preserved in monasteries and castles around Europe.  This sparked a new restoration of knowledge that enriched every aspect of human life and culture in the West.  As this newly revived knowledge was learned and embraced again, it was taught to others and it spread throughout Europe and eventually to the colonies of America.  Our forefathers’ success can be traced back to the greatest ideas and systems the West has produced.  These pillars of the great American experiment contributed to the ideas of our nation’s founders.  Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison each in his own way contributed greatly not only to the founding of this great nation but also to the continuance of the great accomplishments of the Western World.

At SSCCA we strive to learn from those who have gone before us and to apply Godly wisdom to their contributions, in order that we may be prudent in our efforts and pleasing to God our Father.  May we always be grateful to those whose shoulders we now stand upon and may we always value their contributions to the advancement of wisdom, and the proper understanding of liberty and true happiness.”