As I’m writing this, the 2023 NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits, which most of us refer to casually as the NRA “convention,” is still fresh in my mind. I travel the country meeting NRA members and speaking at various events. However, nothing compares to the NRA convention in terms of the excitement and number of members with whom I get to visit. This year was no exception and there was one event I witnessed that is the basis of my column for this month.
I was in the exhibit hall visiting with members and vendors on Sunday after the prayer breakfast. I heard that Joe Gregory was about to have a group of kids ring what I call the Freedom Bell, and this was something I didn’t want to miss. My wife and I made our way to the bell and saw about a dozen boys and girls ranging from about five to twelve years of age lined up and eagerly waiting their turn to ring it. Each kid was to state their name, tell us their state of residence, say “Let freedom ring” and then give a hard pull on the rope to ring the bell.
Without exception, each boy and girl that took hold of the rope spoke softly when saying their name and state of residence. Some spoke so softly that even with a microphone held close to their mouths, we couldn’t hear their names or states. However, when it came time to say “Let freedom ring,” every one of those kids belted it out like they were singing the National Anthem at a baseball game! Everyone in the crowd—myself included—was surprised and so very proud of these kids! From the youngest to the oldest, smallest to the largest, every one of these kids yanked on that rope as hard as they could. Even amidst the din of the exhibit hall, thousands of NRA members heard the ring of that bell.
That short experience spoke volumes about the critical need for all of us to educate our children and grandchildren about what it took to obtain the freedom Americans enjoy, what it took to retain that freedom and what will be required of them to keep American freedom alive. Clearly, someone did that for the kids we saw ringing the Freedom Bell.
When I was in grade school in Texas, our history courses went into detail about the creation of our country. Kids were not taught merely about the battles that were fought in the American Revolution, but also about what life was like in colonial America without the U.S. Constitution. Even at a young age, we bristled at what the British crown could do to Americans who had no recourse for airing their grievances.
Kids going to school in Texas also took at least one Texas history course that covered the same concepts. We learned what it was like to live under a dictator who did whatever he pleased, to whomever he pleased, whenever he pleased. Life for Texans was so bad that, like those in the American colonies, they declared their freedom from Mexico. Those signing the American and Texas declarations knew that doing so would lead to war and put their personal lives and property at great risk. Nevertheless, 185 Texans sacrificed their lives at the Alamo to buy 13 precious days for Gen. Sam Houston to organize his volunteer army. Those days purchased with the blood of brave men made it possible for the Texas army to defeat the Mexican forces at the Battle of San Jacinto. This victory led to the creation of the Republic of Texas and ultimately to Texas statehood.
Sadly, now very few schools in the U.S. tell the full and accurate story of exactly how and why Americans fought to obtain the freedom we have enjoyed for almost 250 years. Parents must never trust government to teach core values to our children; that’s our duty. Yes, many parents and even grandparents are busy with earning a living and taking care of family matters. This makes it hard to “find time” to simply sit down with our sons and daughters and talk about the value of freedom. It’s too easy to just assume that they know and understand—but how? Do we expect them to get it by osmosis? I could go on for pages, but you understand the message.
Every boy and girl who rang the Freedom Bell on that Sunday was shy and experienced “mic fright” when talking about themselves (names and states). Yet each was bold when they almost shouted “Let freedom ring!” That didn’t come naturally or by osmosis—someone taught them that freedom was something that deserved to be proclaimed with gusto. God bless the people who taught those kids the true value and price of freedom, and those who will do likewise for their own children and grandchildren. If we don’t teach freedom’s lesson, then the American way of life will soon pass away, even if the country continues to exist in some diminished capacity.