American Village Prepares Youth to “Keep the Republic.”

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American Village spoke to the Rotary Club of TuscaloosaAt the end of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 a woman approached Benjamin Franklin and asked him the question of the hour: “Well, Doctor, what have we, a republic or a monarchy?” “A republic, ma’am,” Franklin responded, “if you can keep it.”


Franklin’s famous quip neatly sums of the work of the American Village, the full-scale reconstruction of a Revolutionary-era community. Located near Montevallo, the Village seeks to educate its visitors about the foundational history, values and responsibilities of our nation. Tom Walker, Executive Director of the Village, visited the Rotary Club of Tuscaloosa on Tuesday November 22. Rotarian Nancy Pack introduced the speaker.


Some three hundred visitors make their way to the American Village on average each day, most of them school children from Alabama. There they encounter what amounts to a life-size stage with well-trained actors, but with no set script.


The actors’ goal, and that of the Village, is to re-create the “lived moment” of our nation’s founding. With the benefit of hindsight, of course, we know how the events turned out. But our founders and their contemporaries had no such luxury. They had no idea whether their experiment would be a success—in short, whether we could keep the Republic they crafted.


The strategy seems to work, Walker said, since he has seen first hand how often the school-age visitors get quite excited and engaged, and find ways to make deeper connections to history than any textbook or talented teacher could do alone.


And that, for Walker, is crucial. An engaged education serves “to help battle a growing national amnesia” as Walker puts it, about the foundations of our nation’s history. Our national identity is deeper than any bit of information that might had on the spot. Information is cheap in the age of the internet. The Village tries to get beyond mere information to a deeper level of meaning.  “History is to a people what memory is to an individual,” Walker said. He and the American Village are there to make sure we never forget who we are, and where we have come from.


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