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Claremont gets a history lesson

Though schools were closed Saturday, it didn’t stop the afternoon history lesson on the front steps of Claremont’s City Council Chamber.

Volunteers with colonial garb and muskets in hand entertained passersby in commemoration of Constitution Week, a yearly observance of the adoption of the Constitution of the United States, which runs Monday, September 17 through Sunday, September 23.

The Claremont Chapters of both the Daughters and the Sons of the American Revolution (DAR and SAR, respectively) hope to promote continued education in American history and the purpose that drove our nation’s forefathers. Costumes and music provided an additional educational component.

“We hope it spreads news about our revolution and what the country is all about,” said Wayne Rogers of the local chapter of the SAR.

Saturday’s celebration commenced an entire week of honoring the birth of the US Constitution, one of the nation’s most historic documents first adopted on September 17, 1787. The Claremont DAR and SAR chapters joined numerous others paying tribute during Constitution Week, first instituted by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. It’s the perfect time to reflect on our heritage and American liberties, according to Peggy Daniell Ferguson, a member of the Claremont Chapter of the DAR.

“We have so many new people in our country, they need to know about our Constitution,” Ms. Ferguson said, “and the young people, I don’t think they learn enough about it in school.”

Ms. Ferguson, Mr. Rogers and others have dedicated themselves to getting that history correct, providing an alternative perspective to the many history books that focus on the negatives instead of the US history, they say. Mr. Rogers first devoted himself to the historically correct teaching of America’s past after attending a “Parent Night” at his daughter’s middle school 12 years ago. He discovered that the only bit of George Washington’s history being taught to the middle schoolers was the fact that the first president was a slave owner.

“My wife asked, ‘What happened to all his accomplishments?’” he recalled. “We knew we couldn’t change the school system, so we said let’s try to get involved with organizations that will help teach about the American Revolution and what this country is all about.”

Since that time, Mr. Rogers has become involved in more than 40 different organizations centered on promoting the history of our nation’s forefathers. And with a little research, Mr. Rogers has found his own special connection with America’s founding pastime. Twenty-six of his ancestors were American Patriots serving in the Revolutionary War.

“I never even knew I had one!” Mr. Rogers exclaimed.

Mr. Rogers now dedicates much of his time helping others find their own connections to history. With the help of others in the SAR, he travels to schools throughout the region teaching children how to trace their American roots while presenting history in a fun learning environment, colonial costumes included.

Fellow SAR member Greg Rice teams up with Mr. Roger to teach children in colonial-costumed fashion. Mr. Rice became a member of the SAR 6 years ago after his involvement in George Washington colonial balls years prior. He and his wife first became immersed in colonial history by accident. After attending the Dickens’ festival, the couple decided to attend a class teaching English country dancing.

“We went the wrong night and ended up in the colonial period instead of the Victorian,” Mr. Rice said. The rest, for him, is history.

Through his own research, Mr. Rice discovered a link tying himself to the country’s first president beyond the annual George Washington colonial balls he attends.

“George Washington was my ninth great-granduncle,” he said.

He now joins Mr. Rogers to share their passion for US history with the younger generation, even if that means dressing up in full colonial regalia in the sweltering afternoon heat.

“We want to make [history] living for them, to give them a connection,” Mr. Rogers said. “It makes you look at history differently.”

To find out more about Constitution Week, or the activities of the DAR and SAR, visit their websites at www.sar.org and www.dar.org.

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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