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Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Independence Day! And yes, I know that I'm a few days late...but my sentiments haven't changed :)

Tuesday morning I discovered the following song for the first time, and it was a great way to welcome our country's 247th birthday. I will let the lyrics speak for themselves; the artist sums up my own patriotic thoughts better than I could ever hope to.

I don't know about you, but sometimes I fall into the trap of thinking that the Founding Fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, etc. all from scratch without any background or influence. Visiting museums such as Colonial Williamsburg has been instrumental in my learning about the interconnectedness of European thought with colonial American thought. Colonial Williamsburg interpreter Bryan Austin, who portrays President James Madison by day, has recently started up a podcast in his spare time. It's called Let's Be Frank: an Auditory Almanac for the Curious Mind; Austin narrates as Ben Franklin and discusses a range of topics of relevance to his time and our developing country. In one way or another, what Dr. Franklin finds interesting to talk about in his time is interesting to contemplate in our time too. This can range from snakes and whistles to interviews with historians to antidotes from Dr. Franklin's own life. Botanist John Bartram was even due to yours truly ;)

One of my favorite topics that Austin (er, Franklin) has covered has been a four-part miniseries called Chasing Independence. In Chasing Independence, four different philosophers are discussed, and how knowledge of their writings led the Founding Fathers to create the Declaration of Independence that they did. Prior to listening to these episodes, I had a vague memory that John Locke was somehow involved (thank you Colonial Williamsburg for your Pursuing Happiness play!), but not much else. Let's Be Frank was a fantastic next step in learning more about the influences on our country's development. Austin culminated his first season with the finale released on the Fourth, which quite appropriately was a reading of the Declaration of Independence. I know I have read the Declaration of Independence before, but while listening to it in its entirety was struck again by just have specific and blunt it was. Sometimes I think the repetition of hearing "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" minus the context of the whole document lulls people into thinking that the Declaration is a mamby-pamby sort of letter. It's not - and I marvel at the bravery and audacity of the men who signed it.

I'm going to share links to the John Locke and Declaration episodes below, as well as to the Let's Be Frank website. For any of you who may have an interest in the beginnings of America, this podcast is an absolutely fantastic way to learn our country's history in an entertaining manner. I mean, who wouldn't enjoy holding a conversation with Dr. Franklin?

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For those of you wondering, no, I have not dropped off the face of the planet. I'm in the final year of my doctoral degree, and that plus investing in my family takes the bulk of my time. Regarding this blog, back in July 2021 I had a really cool idea for a Civil War-related blog post, but thought I would read one of two books first so I could talk intelligently about the topic. Well, "one or two books" has turned into six books totaling well over 2,000 pages! Currently, I'm just starting book five. Maybe in another six months I'll be ready to write? Who knows! In the meantime, I'm hoping to continue writing in the Early Botanists of Colonial America series - I have at least another four or five botanists to go. For each of the Early Botanists articles I like to read one book on the botanist; that still takes time. In an effort to write more frequently, I recently realized that I could also write museum trip review articles with photos of various museums I visit and the artifacts I find most interesting. So hopefully an On the Road series will premiere soon!


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