I hadn’t considered posting this weekend. I spent a while in my garden, cleaned out the closets for summer, and even went to the movies. I haven’t really been on Twitter, or working on my lesson plans, or even preparing for an important meeting I have on Tuesday. Well, that’s not completely true. I have been thinking about my lesson plans and how I can best honor Memorial Day and the men and women whom we celebrate.
Some years, I go to You Tube and find a video montage of patriotic photographs. Other years, we have read about the beginnings of Memorial Day or how different towns celebrate. It’s always felt very token, unfortunately. I am overwhelmed with emotion when I think about what has been sacrificed for my life to be what it is. Somehow, though, I have never translated those feelings into an effective time of rememberence in my classroom. This year, I’ve been thinking about how I can get my students to see the big picture, the multiple perspectives. Serving in the military is such a foreign thing to so many of them. I’ve been wondering, what can I bring to my students that will really make an impact?
One of my favorite pieces of history is President Lincoln’s letter to Mrs. Bixby. There is some controversy over whether he in fact wrote this, or Secretary Hay wrote it in his place. Even amidst that uncertainty, I post this letter for my friends and family to read each Memorial Day, and this year, I will be sharing it with my students. I am moved each time I read it, and I never tire of the unwavering message of devotion to country. I’m quite certain that I won’t be able to read it in its entirety without any emotion, but my students know my propensity to cry over the written word.
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864. Dear Madam,– I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom. Yours, very sincerely and respectfully, A. Lincoln
I also plan to show portions of the video below, because I think that more than anything else we can read or watch, this will help them “get it.” I’ll be the one in the back of the room sobbing, and that’s okay. We can’t be separate from the emotion that moms, dads, husbands, wives, sons, and daughters have felt for hundreds of years.
They are America. We are America.
To all who have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom: Thank You.
How do you plan to celebrate with your students?