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Saturday morning television, the Preamble, and gratitude

11/21/2023 by Patrick Schmidt

To the surprise of pretty much NO ONE who regularly reads the blogs I write, I enjoy putting my thoughts out there on the “interwebs.”

I am thankful for the opportunity to write on topics of my choosing in a style I figure is a mash-up of Aristotle, Vince Lombardi, and Dave Barry. Why these three? We could all use a little philosophy, coaching, and humor in our lives.

But I digress. This is supposed to be a blog about thanksgiving and gratitude.

So, what am I thankful for this year? Every year I reflect on my family bonds and the friends I have forged relationships with over the years. I am thankful for LRS IT Solutions and the opportunity my employer has given me to provide for my family and grow professionally.

But this year more than ever, I am thankful for Schoolhouse Rock. How’s that for a left-hand turn into a wild connection? Stay with me here. It’s going to get interesting.

I grew up in the 1970’s and 80’s at a time when “appointment television” was the only television. Without VCRs, if you wanted to see Saturday morning cartoons, you had to GET UP on Saturday morning. Interspersed among the various Saturday morning feature cartoons on ABC were three-minute educational films known as Schoolhouse Rock.

While the videos weren’t delivered in a schoolhouse, and they were far from rock music, they made lasting impressions. They that taught about everything from grammar, to mathematics, to science, to history and civics.

My favorite was part of the series known as “America Rock”. Among the America Rock videos that I couldn’t get out of my head was "The Preamble". The slightly abridged version of the Preamble in the song is one of those tunes that takes over your brain and just won’t let go. And I think that is a good thing.

Why? Let’s look at the Preamble of the Constitution . . .

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The emphases are mine, and they are precisely why I am thankful for Schoolhouse Rock for teaching me the basics of citizenship. Let’s dive into why the Preamble is foundational to my gratitude.

We the People of the United States – For the first time in history, the framers of the Constitution were speaking on behalf of the people. The Constitution didn’t begin, “I the King,” or, “We the religious leaders.” It was a radical idea – one whose time had come.

But being separated by over two centuries of history, we sometimes miss or forget how important these seven words are. I like to take this time of year to remember that we have enjoyed self-government for 234 years since the ratification of the Constitution in 1789. For this I am thankful.

A more perfect Union – Well, what does that mean? I honestly think that the Founders did not believe a “perfect” union existed. Who even knows what that would look like? What I trust they did believe is that we the people would have the opportunity to continue making the nation better for all who live here. In our history there are errors for which we must atone, but there are also limitless opportunities to do so.

The point is, we the people have it in our power to make our nation more perfect. We need to remember that on the first Tuesday of November each year we vote. Yes, even when there are no presidential, senatorial, or representative elections, there are school board elections and tax levies to decide. For the ability to make my voice heard, I am thankful.

Secure the Blessings of Liberty – With this one we need to start with a clarification. Strictly speaking, the word “liberty” is not a synonym of “freedom”. While we commonly use the two interchangeably, freedom is the raw material and liberty is the product. Only when good judgment and personal responsibility are applied to freedom can they become liberty and blessings can flow forth.

What are these “blessings”? We can start with the first 10 amendments to the Constitution known as the Bill of Rights.

Therein we are guaranteed our right to free speech and practice of religion (or no religion). We are protected from unreasonable searches and excessive fines. The Bill of Rights even says that enumerating the rights in the Bill of Rights does not mean that others do not exist.

The rights guaranteed to us through our foundational documents and their corresponding responsibilities to our nation and fellow citizens convey a certain dignity to those who live here. A blessing, indeed, and one that I am forever grateful.

So, as you gather with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, you are free to wonder if the Detroit Lions are the real deal this year. You are also free to take a few moments to reread and reflect on the 52 words known as the Preamble. I believe it will be time well spent.

Oh, and speaking of blessings . . . Schoolhouse Rock helped my oldest daughter earn a top score of five (5) on her Advanced Placement US History exam. True story. Maybe I’ll write about that someday.

About the author

Patrick Schmidt is a Technology Lifecycle Management Specialist with LRS IT Solutions. For more than 25 years, he has been helping customers get a firm grasp on their asset and contract management with a combination of comprehensive service level analysis and lifecycle management best practices.