Recently, while walking around the indoor track at the YMCA, a young man, who had been jogging, finished his run and cooled down by walking beside me. As we started to chat, I pointed out a much older man ahead of us who was walking quite slowly. I said to the jogger, “Do you see that man in front of us?”
Looking ahead, he replied, “Yeah.”
“He fought in the Battle of the Bulge,” I said, in an obvious effort to pay tribute of one of the few remaining heroes of World War II. Without missing a beat, the young man responded, “How much did he lose?” Instantly aware that my young acquaintance had no idea what the Battle of the Bulge was, believing the older man had been a TV-show contestant, I replied, “Quite a bit.” I didn’t want to embarrass the jogger, so I played along and eventually changed the subject.
As I thought about the incident later, the humorous aspects started to trouble me. I became quite concerned about how Americans—especially younger ones—have lost their sense of history. My experience had a surreal quality, as if it was a light-hearted moment,which revealed a deep-seated problem in our culture. It became crystal clear to me that there are millions of Americans drifting through life unaware of what we, as a nation, believe—unaware of what America is all about.
As the days passed, my sense of concern increased, and I began to wonder how this problem could be remedied. A few weeks later, while I was in Nashville, I had a cup of coffee with a friend of nearly three decades, David Dunham. Relating the story to him, we began a serious dialog about the huge gap in understanding, which exists among many people, about what our forefathers believed and about our rich historical tradition.
Concurring, our conversation turned to how dangerous it is for our republic to have citizens who have such limited awareness of the core values upon which our nation was established. Having published at least twenty-five New York Times bestsellers—several in the history and political genres—David turned the conversation to specific ways in which we might be able to make a positive impact upon those who want to increase their awareness of our country’s rich heritage based on our Constitution as well as other significant documents over the past 200-plus years.
From that initial meeting, we developed a plan to publish We Believe: 30 Days to Understanding Our Heritage. Our goal was to provide a quick, easy way for interested people to learn what our Founding Fathers believed, coupled with what others have added in subsequent generations—all of which has added texture and value to the Founders’ ideas.
As we developed our concept, we made a deliberate, conscientious commitment to abstain from any partisan editorial comments about the documents. We believed that editorializing would detract from their power and integrity. In our commitment to fairness and accuracy, we have included numerous excerpts from both Democrat and Republican leaders. Our goal, which we have maintained scrupulously, is to allow the voices of our great leaders to speak for themselves, enhanced only by our efforts to couch them within their historical perspective.
This short book, which is packed with the core values of our heritage, can be read quickly and easily. By taking ten minutes a day for thirty days, anybody can come to understand the values upon which America was founded. Every reader will learn why these values are critical to our future and why the generations that preceded us have fought so fiercely to preserve them, often spilling their blood to do so.
In the twenty-first century, the United States faces new challenges and new dangers, which once again require an informed citizenry to make a stand for what we have always believed. To remain strong, we must remain resolute. To remain resolute, we must have convictions. To have convictions, we must know what we believe. To know what we believe, we must return to the original documents. There is no other way.
In the nineteenth century, Lord Acton pointed out, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” His words seem more appropriate today than when he first spoke them. We live in perilous times—times which require good men and women to stand firmly against those who hate our way of life and plot to destroy it. We also face dangers from within—from those who are Americans but who no longer embrace our core values as their own. There have always been people like this among us; but their numbers have grown so large today, they threaten to overwhelm those of us who embrace our heritage lovingly, willingly, and reverently.
For decades I’ve heard people warn of impending doom; and like most, I’ve dismissed what they have had to say as nonsense—as ludicrous, conspiratorial rhetoric. Now, their warnings of impending disaster don’t seem as far fetched as they once did. As most Americans are coming to realize, being ignorant about our heritage is no longer an option.
Remaining unaware may have a heavy price tag attached. For example, in Holland, before World War II, there were 120,000 Jews. By the end of the war, more than 100,000 of them had been exterminated. As one young Jewish girl wrote:
On the last day of school, I failed geography.
A week later I found out exactly where Treblinka was.
But only for a week.
America has weathered many storms. We may weather many more, but we cannot do so without being vigilant—without being informed. With perils from without and from within, understanding our great tradition is more important than ever. Keeping that in mind, we have created We Believe: 30 days to Understanding Your Heritage, which we are certain will help our fellow Americans become a better-informed electorate.