I was invited to speak at a DAR luncheon--Daughters of the American Revolution--several months ago, but scheduling issues delayed my visit until this week. I knew little about the group other than that lineage to a Revolutionary-era ancestor was a requirement for membership.
My visit was to the ladies of the Pleasant Plains Chapter here in Maryland. Never heard of Pleasant Plains? Neither had I. It's because the chapter's charters are based on the original land deeds for their area. There's a lot of history interwoven in these clubs, and lots of refreshing patriotism.
I was told that the women's ages averaged near 70 in this chapter. Many had been members for decades, and their oldest chapter member was celebrating her 97th birthday. One was a veteran of the Korean War, one was worried about a grandchild doing mission work in Haiti when the devastating earthquake hit. These were ladies whose reach was broad and deep, and they drew tender support from one another. I soon learned how far-reaching their goodness was spread in service to veterans, to children, to America's good causes.
They opened with a reading from a book, then prayer, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, the singing of the Star Spangled Banner and the reading of The American's Creed, by William Tyler Page:
I believe in the United States of America as a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed, a democracy in a republic, a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.
I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.
(Written 1917, accepted by the United States House of Representatives on April 3, 1918.)
I wish we all had occasion to say that from time to time. . .
Copies of the Preamble to the Constitution were on the tables, reminding us of the purpose behind that unparalleled document:
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
"In order to form. . . " It serves as a reminder that the work is not finished, nor will it ever be. Rather, like a baton, it's passed from generation to generation, with a prayer that each will nobly carry out the mission to continue to strive to "form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."
My arms prickled and my heart warmed at this gathering of patriotic women who recognized God's hand in the formation and preservation of America, and I felt blessed to be in their company.
They conducted a little business, reading thank you letters from recipients of their service over the holidays--hand-written cards to patients at the Veterans Hospital, donations to a few causes, afghans to legless soldiers--I was awed.
I told them what a pleasure and privilege it was to be with them, and I thanked them for all they are doing to uphold the Constitution and teach a new generation about the Founding Fathers and their ideals. As I spoke about some of my research, they took notes, copied the titles of books I mentioned, and asked for references--these are patriotic scholars and historians in their own right. I was, again, impressed.
The DAR is a wonderful group. They also sponsor a national essay scholarship contest in the spring. My son won our local contest his senior year, and how grateful we were for the gift and for posing questions that inspire our youth to ponder the blessings of being an American.
A big thank you to the DAR everywhere. Whether or not our lineage allows us to join such a group, their example is one that we can all follow. We can learn and honor our own heritage as well as America's, we can study and sustain the Constitution, and serve our fellowman.