WASHINGTON, DC – As Thanksgiving Day approaches, it is interesting to note that America is a very grateful nation. In fact, the majority of Americans are particularly thankful for their families and the freedom they have living in the U.S., according to a recent survey sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation.
Meanwhile, studies by the Pew Research Center rank America as perhaps the most optimistic of nations. One report notes that: “When asked, on a scale of 0 to 10, about how important working hard is to getting ahead in life, 73% of Americans said it is was a ‘10’ or ‘very important,’ compared with a global median of 50% among the 44 nations.”
It is that work ethic that caused the 19th century philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville to describe the United States as “exceptional.” de Tocqueville wrote and published the book, Democracy in America, in 1835 after an extended trip to America during which he met and had discussions with city and country folks. He wanted to know what made our country so different in a world ruled by aristocracies.
Perhaps it was our nation’s diversity, our long-held belief that an educated nation is a strong nation, and a “tradition that nourished a spirit of liberty,” as one student of de Tocqueville’s opus described it. Indeed, the Templeton poll acknowledged that at the top of the list of things for which we are grateful, is family. But respondents in the poll ranked freedom a pretty close second, says David Bruce Smith, co-founder of the Grateful American Book Prize.
Smith believes that gratitude makes us better citizens and it’s why he and former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Bruce Cole, founded the Prize to begin with.
“It’s not enough to be optimistic if we are to be better citizens. We need to be enthusiastic as well. Nothing makes us as exhilarated about our future as knowledge about our past. Our aim with the Prize is to encourage authors and publishers to produce more works of historically accurate fiction and nonfiction, books that can engage our children in stories about how our nation came to be. We want the history teachers in our schools to have all the tools they can use to get their students to understand that the origins of America—its history— tell a unique story that textbooks cannot describe. If our nation’s history could inspire de Tocqueville, it certainly can inspire young learners,” says Smith.
Thanksgiving day is upon us, which means the Christmas shopping season is about to begin. Smith believes there is no better gift you can give your children than a good, appealing read such as those submitted each year by authors seeking the Prize. He particularly recommends the books that have won the Grateful American Book Prize —so far. Kathy Cannon Wiechman’s, Like a River (2015), and Chris Stevenson’s, The Drum of Destiny (2016).
“Like a River is a page-turner about the plight of a pair of teens caught up in the conflict between the states. Stevenson drew directly from the published memoir of John Greenwood who, in 1775, volunteered to fight for his country at the age of 16,” says Smith.