As we read Patrick Henry’s “Speech to the Virginia Convention” in our American Literature class this past week, I was struck by the lessons he can still teach us today.
Henry was radically anti-slavery for his day and used slave imagery to make his case in a speech whose final cry, “Give me liberty, or give me death,” still reverberates throughout history. He fervently implored his countrymen to support a declaration of grievances against the King of England.
Henry’s major theme in his fiery speech was for his fellow Virginians to break loose the chains of fear and hatred. His rhetoric was impeccable as he persuaded those who were listening to forbear fear of the British military and hatred of the English King that would cloud their judgment because their “holy cause” was liberty in opposition to tyranny.
The lessons are implicit in our understanding of our Republic. We must not give in to fear and hatred affecting our judgment.
Most every student understands after hearing Patrick Henry’s speech and discussing the oratorical elements that government is neither going to be our eventual doom or ultimate savior.
What survives is the ideal of liberty and the Republic for which it stands. The enduring lesson is that each citizen’s personal responsibility in the shape of courageous acts and caring attitudes shall always overcome any tyrannical force.
Columnist's note: It has been an honor and pleasure to contribute a column over the past year to help in the positive steps toward making our schools and community better.
It has been my intention as a community member to help foster a deeper understanding of the private perceptions of public education. Much has changed in my twenty years as a teacher but one thing will always endure: My mission is to serve the community and school.
Thanks for your kind words and interest in the common good of our community.