Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

History is cool again. Even as our cultural gatekeepers seem determined to serve up American history in the darkest possible light, it’s good see our nation’s young people still fascinated by America’s story and embracing a less-jaundiced view of our shared past.  One example of this that you might want to check out was written by Sabrina Bricker about her  experience interning at the Ford’s Theatre Education Department. It’s a really great piece about discovering empathy for President Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and other American heroes of the Civil War era. You can read her article here.
ISBN: 9780310730958(Image from Zondervan website)
Also worth checking out (especially as Election Day approaches) is Our Presidents Rock!, a really fascinating and readable compendium of historical facts and true anecdotes about America’s presidents. The book, written by 16-year-old Juliette Turner (daughter Jeanine Turner of  Northern Exposure fame)  is a refreshing, steadfastly-honest — and, essentially, positive — look at the 44 human beings who have held the most consequential job in a America — and, in recent decades, the world.  Our Presidents Rock! is highly recommended for kids and adults.
I recently had the opportunity to ask Juliette about her own exceptionally busy teen life and her personal thoughts on what makes America special.
JWK: As an honor student, singer, dancer, author and National Youth Director of Constituting America, you’re a very busy 16-year-old? How do you find the time for all your activities?

JULIETTE TURNER: Because of all of my activities, I am always busy. But I enjoy it. I am very passionate about history, the Constitution, school, but also doing activities such as dancing and singing. I’m not sure how, but I find the time.

JWK:  Tell me about Constituting America and why the Constitution is so important to you?

JT: After my mother, Janine Turner, founded Constituting America in 2010, I became the National Youth Director. As I served in this position, I realized two things (1) my generation is the future of this country and it’s up to us to preserve our nation, our freedoms, and our government, and (2) we have the attention span of a Twitter and a Vine and we aren’t about to sit down and read pages and pages of textbooks about our history and why it’s important. This is really what initiated my goal to write books that make history and the Constitution fun for my generation. Even more so, I try to apply this history and our Constitution to our everyday lives. No one wants to learn about something that will never apply to their lives. Sadly, many people my age feel this way about our Constitution. This is the root of apathy. When you begin to realize that something, such as the Constitution, actually has a big impact on your life and your future, you begin to pay attention. So this is why I have written these books and continue to speak to my generation to get them interested and involved.

 JWK: Your new book is called Our Presidents Rock. Of all of them, can you name two or three that rock the most to you and why?

JT: When asked this question, you really can’t overlook George Washington. Although this is a “typical” response, I found through my research that George Washington did so much more than people actually realize. As the first president of America, he set all of the precedents for future presidents, leading the way for our new Democratic-Republic.

However, in my book I didn’t just talk about the presidency, I focused heavily on their personality, childhood, and previous political career. Many people don’t know that George Washington was raised by a single mother for the majority of his life (a fact that really resonates with me since I am raised by a single mother). Furthermore, it was George Washington’s leadership and bravery that led the Revolutionary Army to victory and also that led to the ratification of the Constitution (for he was the president of the Constitutional Convention).

Another president who “rocked” in my opinion was Herbert Hoover, which might shock some people. If Hoover had served as president during any other time in history, he would be known as one of America’s greatest presidents. Hoover was a penniless orphan as a child but grew up to become an educated, self-made millionaire. And he used his money for many philanthropic purposes during WWI.

 JWK: Any relatively obscure presidents that particularly surprised you in terms of being interesting, effective and relevant to today?

JT: What really surprised me as I researched all the presidents is that all of them – all of them – overcame adversities and struggles which shaped their personality and ability to lead. For example, Abraham Lincoln suffered from serious depression in his youth which he accredited to shaping his sense of humor and deep faith. Harry Truman’s small business failed and Ulysses S. Grant had to work in his parent’s business because he couldn’t hold a job or grow crops on his ranch to sustain his family. By describing the presidents’ challenges in my book, I hope to engage kids my age through the fact that these men were just like you and me, not just distant politicians in our nation’s capital.

JWK: In your opinion, what characteristics are necessary to be a good president?

JT: Determination and resiliency. Definitely. There were only a select few presidents who never lost a political campaign. The vast majority of the presidents lost several, if not many, political campaigns before they reached the presidency. So many times, these men faced roadblocks that they had to overcome. This is what shaped their character and resulted in their leadership abilities.

JWK: In general, has faith in God been important in the lives of our presidents? 

JT: The vast majority of our presidents have vocally expressed their firm reliance on their faith in a higher power. As I have already mentioned, Abraham Lincoln constantly mentioned his faith not only to his acquaintances, but also in his speeches to the nation. Oftentimes the president’s leadership and faith is what bonded the nation together during times of difficulty and trial. Some of the presidents even composed writings on their faith to leave for posterity, like John Quincy Adams.

JWK: The new Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) curriculum has come under fire by some who see it as being placing too much attention on how America has sometimes failed to live up to its ideals — without giving adequate attention to when it has. How do you feel about that — and about how history is taught in schools? Are we doing a good job?

JT: I’m actually in an APUSH course right now at my school and can attest to the strong anti-American sentiment that is throughout the course. Not only is the course very anti-conservative (in my textbook I have found numerous and obvious anti-conservative and pro-liberal remarks), but it is also anti-America, mentioning America as an imperialist and “bully” nation that interferes in other countries in order to gain benefits for itself only. And this drives me insane. I’m lucky because I already have a basis of understanding of American history and a love of my country. However, I can see why my generation is becoming more and more anti-America. It is because of the curriculum in the schools.

JWK: Is America ready for a woman president?

JT: Absolutely! It’s about time!

JWK: Is there anyone you, as a teenager, would like to see run and win in 2016?

JT: 2016 will be a very exciting election year for me personally since it is the first election in which I will be able to vote. I have been waiting for this day! In a candidate, I look for an individual who understands the limitations that our Constitution places  upon the executive branch and his/her responsibility to maintain our constitutional government. Also, as a child of a single  mother, I am looking for a candidate who carries no biases or stereotypes as to how people should live their lives. I believe in a limited government and will be voting for a candidate who will strive to maintain a small government with the checks and balances of our government as they are prescribed in the Constitution.

JWK:  Any chance that a future edition of the book will include you as a subject?

JT: I do hope to serve my country in the political realm and be of service to my fellow countrymen, whether this be in the national or state governments. Really, I will do whatever God wishes. However this question will inevitably be up to the voters themselves!

JWK: Personally, I think America could do a lot worse.

 Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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