The Alamo's Enduring Legacy in America
- The Alamo as a Monument
- The Alamo as a Lesson in Democracy
- How we pass on this Legacy?
The Alamo is the number one visitor destination site in Texas. It is a physical shrine and a cradle of Texas liberty. The building is made of limestone blocks and is a tourist Mecca as well as a solid economic generator.
Although these are all descriptions you are likely to hear about the Alamo, the lesson of the Alamo from which you and I profit is beyond the physical or, for that matter, the fiscal, aspects. It is largely unspoken, subliminal and subtle. Listen carefully though, for you can still hear the bugles of war. Today, these no longer declare a call to arms to transgress or to secure the unalienable rights for which our forefathers fought at Lexington, Concord and beyond. Instead, they serve us as a different kind of call.
Remember the chilling sound of the deguello, the sound of "no quarter", no lives to be spared, no prisoners to be taken in the ensuing battle. And although the sound of the deguello has been muted, nature's own deguello plays on in ways that threaten your and my freedom. It is heard in most every step that we take to strengthen and shore-up our yet young democracy. Listen carefully.
Will and Ariel Durant in their classic book entitled "The Lessons of History" remind us that over the span of history, the most prevalent and durable form of government has been the monarchy. Democracies, on the other hand they say, have been hectic interludes between monarchies. Surely, America cannot return to a monarchy!
It is said that Crockett, Travis, Bowie and Bonham grew up at a time when the American Revolution against the British monarchy was the single greatest event in all history. They could see parallels between the American Declaration of Independence in 1776 and yes, the then recent Mexican call for independence from Spain in the Grito de Delores of Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in 1810. These North American movements laid the psychological and philosophical foundations for what was to take place in revolutionary Texas in 1836. Taxation without representation, dictatorial government, restraints on all forms of liberty and the like were all too familiar to early American and Mexican revolutionaries and consequently, to Texans. These brave and enlightened souls knew what they must accomplish and were willing to pay the price.
As a result of these revolutions, you and I have experienced the blessings and benefits of the finest nation on earth. Not a perfect government, just the best government known to humanity. And since it is not perfect, it is in constant need of improvement by you and I. Will you help the cause of good government? Will you fortify our American way of life by your self-sacrifice and good deeds in our community?
First, begin by understanding the answer to the question "Why?". In good times it almost seems irrelevant. It sounds so basic, the answer so obvious, doesn't it?
Yet, listen to what Daniel William Cloud had to say about why he was fighting in the Texas Revolution: "The reason for our pushing further on must now be told, and as it is a master one, it will suffice without mention of any other. Ever since Texas unfurled the banner of freedom and commenced a warfare for "Liberty or Death", our hearts have been enlisted in her behalf…. If we succeed, the country is ours: It is immense in extent and fertile in soil and will amply reward all our toils. If we fail, death in the cause of liberty and humanity is not cause for shuddering."
Might we pursue some suitably lofty goal in our brief lives? What would amply reward all our toils? Aside from personal good fortune, would a community of educated and voting, dedicated citizens be sufficient? Would your Commissioner's Court, City Council, Texas Legislature or Congress be more productive, responsive or simply put: act in a higher manner?
We do well to remember the statement that education is the guardian genius of democracy. The Durants tell us that democracy is the most difficult of all forms of government, since it requires the widest spread of intelligence. We cannot afford to ignore the relevance of these time-tested lessons of history on how important education is to us all.
Since you and I will not have to scale the walls of this or any other structure to fight to the death for our freedom, what is our mission in life? Very different challenges must be confronted by us that the Texas Revolutionaries never had to contend with. Early Texans may have seen "smoke signals" coming from the Indians, but surely they never experienced a smog-filled day. Some early Texans saw Spindletop and the 70 to 80 thousand barrels of oil that plentifully spewed forth the first few days after the first well blew in 1901. Yet one hundred years from plentiful Spindletop, we find that Texas has to import one-third of its energy needs. What will you do to secure the blessings of liberty made possible by keeping our "economic powder" dry?
Carved on the wall at the National Archives where the Bill of Rights is kept are the words, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." What price will you pay today as a proud and thankful Texan or American? How do you define personal civic diligence?
Will you give no quarter to ignorance, to voter apathy, to dogma, which is the enemy of freedom, to civic isolationism? Say yes to knowledge, yes to understanding, to the well-being of your fellow man and to self-sacrifice so we can build and maintain this Texas you and I have come to know and love.
And remember the experience of the young student of the American Constitutional Convention in 1787 at the Pennsylvania Statehouse in Philadelphia. As he watched delegates to the Convention come and go he was in awe. He was particularly taken with the spectacle of Dr. Benjamin Franklin being carried in a sedan chair each day. Dr. Franklin was the old man of the convention at age 81 and suffered from gout. Hence, the sedan chair
At the end of the convention and as all the delegates filed out, the young student of the convention called to Dr. Franklin, "Dr. Franklin, what have we? A democracy or a monarchy?" Being the sage that he was, Dr. Franklin turned to the young man and told him "A democracy, if you can keep it".
I have no doubt that from all that I see here today, that with the spirit of Texas and of all those souls that fought so valiantly here at the Alamo, that we here in America will 'keep it'!