WALT DISNEY, HENRY FORD, AND THE FOUNDING FATHERS
By Bill Sizemore
November 14, 2003
It is a curse of the human condition that we forget, and that we sometimes forget the most important things.
We forget how we felt about our spouse back when we were first courting; those romantic walks and long goodnight kisses. We forget the excitement and joy we shared when our children were born. Sometimes, we even forget the vows we took.
When our children become teenagers and start challenging our authority, we forget how sweet and fun they were when they were little. We forget how excited and proud we were when they took their first step. Today, instead of hugging them, we sometimes feel like shipping them off to boarding school, or on other days, to some other country.
We also forget what simple faith we had when were children, back when it was easy to believe everything our Sunday school teachers taught us. After all, we say, things are much more complicated when viewed through grown-up eyes.
We forget the people and the good fortune that helped get us where we are today. We forget them and we forget the sacrifices they made for us. If we are not careful, we even forget that our gifts and talents really are on loan from God, and that there is no gift or talent we have that we did not receive.
If we are not careful, if we forget too much, we end up losing the things that matter most.
So what does all this have to do with Walt Disney, Henry Ford, and the Founding Fathers? Hang on; we’ll get there.
Remembering is such a big deal that there is even an entire book of the Bible about remembering. Moses wrote the Book of Deuteronomy, the “second telling of the law,” to remind those who had wandered in the wilderness for forty years, just why it was that God had let an entire generation on Israelites die off before finally letting their children enter the promised land. He wrote the book to remind them to remember, lest they repeat the mistakes of their fathers and suffer the same fate.
But it is not just remembering that is so important. Remembering is merely the first step. We must remember the important things, and then we must pass them on to our children and grandchildren, lest the important things fade away and become lost.
History is replete with stories of people who forgot and paid the consequences. It may be safe to say that every great nation in history that fell into ruin failed because the ones who built it failed to instill in future generations the values that made them great.
Have you ever wondered why in the Bible God chose Abraham out of all the people on the earth, and why God blessed him with such a powerful destiny; making him the father of many nations and the father of them who believe? Why Abraham?
Sure, Abraham was a man of faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God. But what else was there about the man that God saw?
Here’s what the angelic visitor said about Abraham before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah: “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do: Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment, that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he has spoken of him.”
God saw in Abraham a man who would not only believe Him and obey Him, but a man who would pass those same traits on to his children. Could a great and mighty nation spring forth from a man who would not pass the keys to his greatness on to his children? How could it?
There was a generation of great souls, who lived on this continent 200 or so years ago when the thirteen original states were but colonies belonging to England. By today’s standards, they were giants; devout men and women, schooled not just in letters and numbers, but well-versed in the scriptures and in the classics, often translated in their own hand from the original languages.
They were avid students of history, especially the history of governments going back thousands of years. From those studies they had gleaned a healthy fear of the power of government and its propensity to corrupt the nature of fallen men. From their writings, we can see clearly that they recognized that the experiment upon which they were embarking, that of starting a new nation from scratch, based on the principles gleaned by the successes and failures of thousands of years of human experience, was of momentous importance.
Not only were these great men and women endowed with a burning love of liberty, but they were of a breed quite rare today, in that they were willing to sacrifice their property, their lives, and even their sacred honor to establish on this earth a kind of government that had never before existed: a republican form of government, which had as its primary function the preservation for each individual citizen the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The Founders recognized the absolute necessity of morality and religion in maintaining that government; and they recognized the importance of binding that government in the chains of a Constitution to strictly limit its power. And they recognized that the right of a citizen to own and be secure in his property was fundamental to that liberty and thus took steps to insure that government respected that right.
And so it remained for many generations of Americans. Eventually though, Americans took for granted the constitutional protections they had enjoyed since birth. Many never knew that things could be any different than they were here in the land of the free. Tyranny and socialism were only hypothetical concepts. Freedom was something that could not be lost.
The precious became common and was taken entirely for granted. Generations failed to pass on to their children the same values their forefathers had passed on to them.
Maybe we thought the schools would take care of all that instruction for us. After all, they teach civics and history in public schools, don’t they? Sure they do, but probably not the civics of Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and Madison. They also teach history in public schools, but not so that you would recognize it, unless you believe Christopher Columbus was an evil, greedy man and the Founding Fathers all Deists.
Yes, it is a curse of the human condition that we eventually forget and take for granted precious things. But as Moses lays out so clearly in Deuteronomy, there is a price to pay for forgetting. Forgetting is not an excusable sin. There are consequences.
There are things we can do to remember. Every once in a while I pull out a videotape of my kids when they were little. I watch them opening their presents on Christmas morning, wearing those little pajamas with the padded feet. I watch their little, barely awake faces light up. I listen to their bubbling laughter and hear again those sweet little voices I had forgotten they had.
Then, when I have turned off the video, I go to their bedrooms and see them as they are now, looking half grown-up and dealing with the pressures and demands of school work, peer pressure and hormone changes. Leaning over them, I forget the argument we had this morning over the music I won’t let them listen to, and I put my arms around them and hug and kiss them and tell them how much I love them; lest they forget; lest I forget.
But our children will not grow into the adults they should be, just because we love them. That love creates an environment in which we can teach and nourish and pass on our values and traditions.
We have failed our children if we have not passed on to them a realistic perspective of government. We must insure that they know that it is not okay to raid people’s paychecks and steal their property, even if doing so seems to be in the best interest of society.
We must not take it for granted that our children know the importance of spiritual things and understand the foundations of traditional morality. We must insure that they do.
Walt Disney would not know the company he founded only a generation ago. He would roll over in his grave at what those at the helm of Disney today have made of his dream. Henry Ford would turn away in disgust at what the Ford Foundation is doing with his fortune.
I am certain that the Founding Fathers would be distressed at the way we have allowed their carefully constructed, much debated words have been twisted so as to kick God and the Bible out of our schools and to protect the purveyors of obscenity. They would wonder in disbelief at the income taxes we allow to be confiscated from our paychecks today and the property that is stolen without compensation by means of egregious land use regulations.
In their day, they would have hung the government official who told them that they could not build a deck on the back of their house without a government permit or could not own a gun without the government’s consent.
As Disney grew into a giant corporation, it lost touch with its roots. A new Pharaoh arose that did not know Walt Disney. Today, “church going” Walt would not even be welcome to sit on the board of directors of his own company.
Today, neither George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, nor James Madison could be elected to Congress in any of the states from which they hailed two centuries ago.
That’s what happens when a generation or two fails to pass on to their children and those who work under them the values and traditions that form the very underpinnings of their society. Precious things slip away, for the price of liberty really is eternal vigilance.
It is imperative that we of this generation rekindle the fire in our own hearts and minds; rediscover for ourselves the important things; and then pass them on to our children and grandchildren. It is a tragic personal failure when our children come home from college liberal atheists.
Times a wasting. Turn off your TV one or two nights a week, get out your Bible, your Constitution, your Declaration of Independence, and your Federalist Papers and read them again. Read them together. Quiz each other, maybe after each chapter, to insure that they understood what they read. Talk with them about the principles of limited government and how those principles relate to things like the income tax, zoning laws, and prayer in school. Talk with them openly and frankly about things like faith, prayer, and morality.
Teach your children that they can be tolerant of others and respect diversity without having to believe that homosexuality is okay. Explain to them that ideas have consequences, and that all opinions and religions are not equal. Explain to them why some things are wrong just because God says so, and that not all rules and restraints are an attack on freedom.
These are important matters. We must not forget them. We must not fail to pass them on to those who will still be here, God willing, after we are gone. Let it be said of us that we recognized the important things, and like Abraham of old, we not only did them, but instructed our children to do them, too.
© 2003 Bill Sizemore - All Rights Reserved
Bill Sizemore is a registered Independent who
works as executive director of the Oregon Taxpayers Union, a statewide
taxpayer organization. Bill was the Republican candidate for governor
in 1998. He and his wife Cindy have four children, ages eight to thirteen,
and live on 36 acres in Beavercreek, just southeast of Oregon City, Oregon.
"We forget the people and the good fortune that helped get us where we are today. We forget them and we forget the sacrifices they made for us. If we are not careful, we even forget that our gifts and talents really are on loan from God, and that there is no gift or talent we have that we did not receive."