Few things renew American patriotism better than a trip to New England.
My wife and I had the opportunity to do that recently when we visited our daughter, who is working on a film project there for a couple of months.
Although we had been to Boston before, we were reminded of the city’s realities even before reaching the bag claim area at the airport.
This is the place where the notion took flight that simple colonists could recover their birthright of freedom by tearing themselves away from the oppressive rule of the British king and launching an experiment in self-government.
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Inspired by the audacity of the men who dumped tea into Boston Harbor, Patrick Henry summed up defiance to tyranny with his legendary speech to the Virginia Legislature that concluded, “… give me liberty or give me death.”
The Samuel Adams statue in front of Faneuil Hall (aka the Cradle of Liberty) commemorates the first public meeting there, where Adams seized upon the opportunity following the Boston Massacre to mobilize the city’s citizenry against the omnipresent British troops.
His efforts were greatly aided by the work of engraver Paul Revere, whose over-dramatized depiction of the massacre served to stimulate anti-British public opinion.
Fellow Bostonian revolutionary John Hancock would later lead the Continental Congress that produced the document bearing his famous signature and declaring American independence.
All three rest eternally among other famous occupants in the Granary Burying Ground along Boston’s Freedom Trail — a journey that I think ought to be a required field trip for every youngster lest their education be incomplete.
The trail begins in the nation’s oldest park, the Boston Common, where British troops were stationed before marching on Lexington and Concord, and ends at the magnificent USS Constitution, which was instrumental in repelling the English fleet trying to reclaim our new nation in the War of 1812.
Along the way, lessons in liberty abound and stir up the resolve to be true to the principles of our Founders and the documents they produced to ensure that We the People remain in control and not become objects of ever-expanding federal power.
From Boston we proceeded to picturesque Portsmouth, in “Live Free Or Die” New Hampshire, settled by English colonists in 1630. Here we were reminded of those who preceded the patriots of the American Revolution, arriving on these shores seeking relief from religious oppression and the opportunity to build new lives.
Even today that history is preserved by the presence of the magnificent North Church, first built in 1657. It’s where George Washington once worshiped, and it dominates the center of the town.
Paul Revere included Portsmouth on his famous ride to warn the town’s inhabitants that the British were coming.
Our second president, John Adams, established the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in 1800 as the nation’s first federal navy yard and its is the oldest continuously operating shipyard in the U.S. Navy.
Up the coast of Maine, we found Kennebunkport. The city’s founding, in 1653, combines with its reputation today as the summer home of the Bush family, where world leaders have been hosted by the two presidents.
Politics are on display throughout the shops and stores of the town of about 3,500. One merchant proudly showed us his most popular item — a black T-shirt emblazoned with the date 01.20.17, and underneath in red, white and blue letters, “Obama’s Last Day.”
It serves as a reminder that we have the opportunity to recommit ourselves to the essential values of individual freedom and limited government — the crucial lessons so dramatically present in the places of our nation’s origins.
Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor who served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. mayorgreene@
Editor’s note: This column has been changed from its original version to correct an editing error in the reference to the Samual Adams statue at Faneuil Hall in Boston.