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Sarah Palin versus the National Park Service

Posted June 7th, 2011 by

It isn’t often that I intone the name of present-day political figures when I blog. I find that names like Barack Obama or Sarah Palin tend to elicit such emotional reactions from readers that the actual intent of the post is often lost as readers react with their feelings about the lightning-rod figure instead.

Today I’m making an exception. Having now driven more than 4,200 miles through sixteen states, Sharon and I have visited many historic sites, museums and interpretive centers. Our experiences with National Park Service sites and interpretive centers, in particular, stand out as one of the most significant discoveries we’ve made. We are exceedingly impressed with the work the NPS is doing to inform visitors of the many truths of history–including the ugly aspects that are often difficult to take–at interpretive centers across our country. We have found modern facilities that use current technology to great advantage. Interactive exhibits bring history alive. Well-trained staff offer interpretation and contextualization that help visitors recognize how that history continues to impact life today.

We learned a great deal about the Selma to Montgomery march for Voting Rights at the Lowndes County Interpretive Center. We discovered enlightening information about Abraham Lincoln at his home in Springfield, Illinois. Many other sites are operated by private organizations and some are better than others at exposing the truths of history. There is so much information available at one’s fingertips online that there is really no excuse for not learning more about the facts of history, its interpretation, context, and import for today.

Sarah Palin recently visited the Old North Church in Boston and mangled American history even more than Henry Wadsworth Longfellow did with his famous poem. Longfellow’s intentions in writing The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere were political. It was 1860 and the Civil War was looming. Longfellow wanted to unite people, remind them of the sacrifices of previous generations that led to the creation of the United States. He wanted to preserve the Union and so romanticized–and changed the facts about–history.

So did Palin. She didn’t get everything wrong. When Revere was captured by the British he did warn them about the numbers of rebels and the weapons at their disposal. But that wasn’t the purpose of his ride. Palin’s wording is misleading and confusing. When she then defends her words rather than clarifying them, the problem is amplified. Palin’s words are repeated on news broadcasts. She is spoofed by comedians, trashed by opponents, and lionized by supporters. The truth and its impact are sacrificed. Her political goals, unfortunately, appear more important to her than accurate reflections of history.

If I had a magic wand I would wave it over Sarah Palin’s tour across America and make sure she paid close attention to the well-educated National Park Service staff, the historians and interpreters at sites operated by other groups, and instill an interest in her to do a great deal more research before she speaks into the many microphones that are held before her.

Most of us, of course, don’t face the challenges Sarah Palin and other famous people face. We can take our time to learn more about our nation’s history. We can take our children and grandchildren to significant sites where history has been made. I suspect most people think of camping when they think about the National Park Service. I grew up visiting the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Crater Lake, and many other National Parks with my family. I’m blessed on this trip with Sharon to learn just how much the NPS has to offer at interpretive centers across our nation as well.

Oh, and the other thing I would do with my magic wand (I mean, if you have a magic wand you may as well get plenty of use out of it, right?) is wave it over every American and instill the interest and ability to visit historic sites and learn more about our nation’s history and what has brought us to the place we inhabit today.

4 responses to “Sarah Palin versus the National Park Service”

  1. BJThomas says:

    well said!

  2. Herman L. Hopkins Jr says:

    Do you mean that Paul Revere's talk to the British as regards to the amount of opposition and the weapons at their desposal was in answer to their questions rather then a warning to the British? And that by giving this knowledge it acted as a warning? Especially if the British were not prepared to face those numbers of well equipped opposition? And that being added to the purpose of his ride, would sound traiterous, in that he acted as a spy? If his pupose was to count the opposition? I'm a little lazy in that I don't want to go and check and that I believe what I remember of the details of the ride to be true. That one of the reason of his ride was to determine the numbers of union soldiers but not for the british purposes but those who sent him on the ride. So that they would know and evaluted their chances and the best stradegy aganist the British. And in being captured by the British that information was useful to the British as well. And it strange, maybe its pro-Americanism to say or except what it sounds like she's saying. (The problem with some wrong information). It would wave the patriotic flag of grandeur to say we sent a messenger to tell you exatly our numbers and weapons knowing that they are greater then yours, telling you to save lives by aborting any attempt because we out power you. Sounds good, but Paul Revere was caught and the founding fathers didn't know exactly how much they could depend on. That they were going to fight regardless is clear.
    Sorry when you thing you know something to be true you say it.

  3. Herman L. Hopkins Jr says:

    And then I mangled it more. I forgot the purpose of his ride ultimately! To warn that the 'British' were coming! Invading even. I must have gotting caught at the point were he walks into a town house and talks to some of the town leaders telling them of the number of 'British' ships that pulled in to the Ney York harbor and based on size the estimated number of soldiers. And she makes a good point the 'British' were already there. But if you remember the 'British' were also affect by the new decry from the 'Kingdom of Britian' and they to were affected by the new taxation laws. One of the reason soldiers from 'England' had to be sent to 'America' to enforce the new tax laws. Even the 'British' in America was aganist the new Tax laws. So Paul was warning all the 'Americans', quote unquote.

    • thomasdewolf says:

      Perhaps most interesting in all this is that Paul Revere is famous because of Longfellow's poem. Why Longfellow chose him instead of the other two riders that night (Dawes and Prescott), I don't know. Maybe because his name rhymed better? The fact is that Revere didn't finish his ride that night. Nor did Dawes. Only Prescott made it to Lexington to warn the rebels who were then ready when the British arrived. More info: http://www.socialstudiesforkids.com/funfacts/paul….

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