Vol. 49, No. 7 - Thursday, November 3, 2016
Destiny Joseph, Class of 2016, The Woodward School
Speech at John Adams Wreath Laying Ceremony – October 28, 2016
Good Afternoon. I am honored to remember President John Adams in this historic place. Thank you Reverend From and Mr. Damon for the invitation to The Woodward School. My senior class is here with me, and I am proud to represent them and Woodward today.
The Woodward School, the First Parish Church, and President John Adams all share an ongoing story. Woodward’s Founders, Dr. Ebenezer Woodward and his wife Mary Greenleaf, were cousins to the Adams, and Dr. Woodward was a leading physician in Quincy, until his death in 1869. Both families were members of this congregation, and they shared a belief in education for all American citizens. In May, I will graduate with my class in this Church, our school tradition. My Mother and Aunt are also graduates of Woodward. So, I am able to say, that for two generations, members of my family have been direct beneficiaries of the vision and generosity of the Adams and Woodwards, and we are grateful.
When we honor President John Adams today, we also honor the strongest, common bonds we have together as Americans. The contributions of President Adams are unique and exceptional. He was a Founder of our democracy, and a writer of our Constitution. To read his words and understand what he believed, is inspiring. He represents the values that make us Americans.
I think most people would agree that the United States is a nation that inspires people. We are here because of the thinking and actions of John Adams and others over 200 years ago, which is pretty amazing. It took great effort and courage to make our country. John Adams described The Constitutional Convention this way: “The deliberate union of so great and various a people in such a place is, if not the greatest exertion of human understanding, then the greatest single effort of national deliberation that the world has ever seen.”
And we have the result – our freedoms and rights. Although we don’t think about it every morning, we should, because the constitutional government our Founders created for us, might be the most important thing in our lives. Everything else comes from it. The confidence we have that we are free, and that we have rights, is built into us in a way that not everyone around the world can understand. Many have not experienced life in a country with constitutional protections, the way I have since I was born. Though it may seem as if we are all divided and arguing in America, what we have in common is that we can stand up and voice our opinions, and we can say, I am exercising my first amendment rights, and all my other rights and protections. It’s no small thing to be able to say that.
Our Founders looked into the future, thinking of us to come. It is only right for us to look back at them. To read President Adams’ words is inspiring. He warned us not to squander the gift and privilege of American citizenship and democracy. When he wrote about our founding, he said, “I will hazard a prediction that ……the longest Liver of you will find no principles, institutions or systems of education more fit in general, to be transmitted to your posterity, than those you have received from your ancestors.” He sounds proud of what they created, and he did not take these achievements for granted. He believed that “Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.” and that educated citizens were necessary to preserve our democracy. He warned that we must protect it, writing in a letter: “Liberty once lost, is lost forever.” He seemed to speak directly to us in the future, when he wrote: “Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven, that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”
I am honored to remember and thank President John Adams for imagining and creating the system that is our incredible, wonderful, country. With all of our problems and disagreements, we live within the enormous freedom and energy that is the United States, a nation of citizens. When we stop to look back, remember, and listen to the words of our Founders, I think it becomes impossible to ignore how precious it is for us and for future generations. I hope we can live up to President Adams’ great expectations, educating ourselves to understand, appreciate and preserve our freedom, and to make good use of it, as he hoped and dreamed we would. Thank you President Adams, and thank you everyone here today.