Project American Life
Mission: Project American Life rekindles America’s founding principles by inspiring young people to understand and appreciate our Founders’ noble ideals, sacred honor, and ultimate sacrifices ~ thus compelling a new generation to uphold these standards in all aspects of their lives.
The PAL curriculum meets and exceeds state and national standards, is centered upon the founding principles contained in the Declaration of Independence, and uses exciting hands-on, minds-on activities to instill the simple, yet profound, idea that all human beings have equal worth and that everyone has certain inherent rights – the rights to life, liberty, and to pursue one’s greatest dreams.
The challenging and personal nature of the program fosters significant learning and individual growth. Students develop a true appreciation of what it means to be an American and an understanding of their responsibilities as citizens. They also learn the how and why American history is relevant to them as individuals. Students leave PAL inspired to follow in the footsteps of our founding fathers with a deep sense of gratitude, personal and civic responsibility, and personal purpose.
The PAL Structure:
Throughout the week, students are in small learning groups under the supervision of a PAL instructor, leaving visiting teachers and chaperones free to participate as much, or as little, as they would like. Students are genuinely challenged, both intellectually and emotionally, by the activities in which they participate with each day focusing on a different core question as well as core virtues:
Day One - Who am I?
Students learn that their value is not in what they have, but who they are as individuals.
Day Two- What am I?
Students discover there are unique gifts and responsibilities that are an inherent part of being a human being.
Day Three - Where am I?
Students examine what it means to live in America as well as their greater place in society.
Day Four - Why am I?
The final day is a culmination of the previous days’ questions, asking the ultimate question of “What is my purpose, and how do I achieve it?”
Children are inspired when they realize they have great personal value and are a part of something bigger than themselves. Project American Life believes an inspired child equipped with knowledge, courage and commitment can truly make a difference in the world.
Just as in 1776, there are a host of “self-evident” qualities:
• There is a new birth of understanding and optimism...
• There is a restored recognition that we all have a purpose...
• There is a heartfelt appreciation for all that has been given to us...
• There is a spirited desire to seize the responsibility that is now ours...
Just as in 1776, there are enduring “self-evident” results:
• There is a generation of young people who know their rich heritage...
• There is a constantly renewing wellspring of service-minded individuals...
• There is a steadfast dedication to pursue excellence in all fields of endeavor...
• There is a genuine entrepreneurial spirit overflowing from the paradigm of Liberty...
By providing inspirational exploration into American history, PAL brings to life the noble dreams of our Founders and the classic virtues that they embodied. The four-day residential challenge is a series of experiential classes and simulations that foster an impassioned zeal for seizing the duties of American citizenship! Not only do students discover the wisdom of our Founders, they also are inspired to walk in their shoes. By revealing the insight within The Declaration of Independence and the “sacred honor” of its signers, PAL imparts a deep appreciation for The Founders’ ideals and the sacrifices they made on our behalf. It binds students to their own duty to Life, Liberty, and the Highest Good ~ to reach beyond the smallness of immediate gratification and seize life’s greatest gifts (“endowed by their Creator”) ~ the wondrous opportunity to serve a cause greater than self.
Though the word “freedom” is often tossed around like a beach ball, the term is indeed a unifying element in both the Great Cause of America and its servant, Project American Life. So, are there specific virtues embedded when “freedom” is so nonchalantly mentioned? Well, there certainly ought to be intrinsic meaning! As for PAL, we declare the following characterizations as loudly as we can:
American Liberty means…
… freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion ~ the right to be one’s own person
… freedom of Speech ~ the right to express one’s beliefs without coercion or intimidation
… freedom of Markets ~ the right to sell, trade and purchase without government meddling
… freedom to Prosper ~ the right to use personal investment and ingenuity to build success
… freedom from Invasion ~ the right to empower the government to secure our borders
… freedom from Tyranny ~ the right to defend against oppression, external and internal
… freedom to seize our unalienable Rights ~ “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of happiness”
Each program week... scores of middle school students sign their names (like John Hancock) to a large parchment that they take back to their respective schools. The parchment boldly declares the heroic standards to which they are now committing their lives:
“The Declaration of Dependence”
On July 4, 1776, our nation’s Founders gave us the priceless gift of The Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We have heard these words before but have never understood their full meaning. These words uncovered a truth that had always been available, but no society had ever completely comprehended. The world has never been the same.
Our nation will never be perfect as it can only be made up of imperfect people. Thankfully, The Declaration remains a renewing wellspring of strength and inspiration. In a world that has known so much darkness, America has been a brilliant beacon of light. We have certainly had more than our share of heroes to guide us. Today, we choose to join this “shining city on a hill” that we might continue to declare these founding principles. Though many say that these ideals are merely matters of personal opinion, we resoundingly reject this cowardly notion. These truths are still self-evident to all who are willing to see!
Today, there is much in the world to make us feel hopeless and helpless: fear, ignorance, apathy, and a profound sense of meaninglessness. Today, we must choose, and our choice is clear; we will seize the timeless standard of The Declaration. Right now, we recognize the precious gifts we were given. We honor those who lived and even died for these principles. We reflect upon who our forefathers were so we can best become who we really are. We yearn to be the person we were meant to be. We shout for joy, as abiding hope is within our grasp!
As we are all Created equal, we must respect the sanctity of human life. We are neither a random accident nor a muddle of genetic traits; rather, each of us is an essential treasure. When something is created, it is done so for a purpose. We commit ourselves to seeking, and ultimately finding, this special purpose. Amidst the noise of the world, a still, small voice is calling our names. As our Founders understood, there will be consequences for genuine valor, but we will be brave. With an unwavering faith in our founding principles, we stand up!
In doing what is right, we will always have a majority of one. Together, we will fight the good fight with a host of warriors. Their names echo in the wind: Washington, Jefferson, Adams... and so many, many more. Hand-in- hand we feel the longing of many hearts: a mother hugging her son as he goes off to join other young patriots, a farmer steadfastly working his field as he hungers for amber waves of grain, a merchant risking all of his savings to open a small country store, a teacher taking extra time with her students so that their minds might be opened to the great ideas of literature. On July 8, 1776, a former slave heard a loud clanging of bells from the tower of Independence Hall. He ran to see what was taking place, arriving just in time to hear the first public reading of The Declaration. The words brought tears to his eyes, joy to his heart, and enduring resolve to his soul. He was, and is, the embodiment of the American Dream. That bell of liberty is now cracked and silent, but its message forever rings!
Our struggles are never in vain; goodness is never wasted. Truth will always prevail because we are not alone. In closing their majestic document, The Founders declared, “And for the support of this Declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” Today, we join the cause of our Founders. With faith and conviction, we solemnly sign our names.
©2001 Jamie Aiken
The Project American Life Song:
Project American Life in the News: