2002-08-10 / Columnists

Chatting With Chapey

A Lesson In Democracy:
A Visit To Philadelphia
By Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey

A Lesson In Democracy:
A Visit To Philadelphia

This weekend we had the wonderful opportunity to visit Philadelphia for a
family reunion.  It is always a refreshing and renewing experience to visit such an important city, which played a vital role in the formation of our democracy.

As we toured the historical sites and listened to the guides' presentations we were reminded of the valor of our founding fathers. This really sweeps one back in time to the days when the United States of America was in formation. According to all accounts the Colonists had sent representatives to the Continental Congress because they were upset by the
taxes that the British Crown was imposing on the colonies. It was a difficult choice to make between the crown and the formation of a new nation.

As the issues were debated, it became clear that the only road for the colonies was to start a new union and divorce themselves from the oppressive tax policies of Britain. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were each aware that they were putting their own lives in jeopardy. It was a very difficult and soul-searching process that each signer went through before placing his or her name on that document. The visitors guide reinforces the fact that "their signature symbolizes the courage and strength of commitment required of national revolutionaries."

As one takes time to reread the Declaration of Independence, one must be impressed with the wisdom of our forefathers. Since there was quite a bit of friction and suspicion between the smaller and bigger colonies, our forefathers created two separate houses in Congress; (a) the Senate which has two representatives from each state and (b) the House of Representatives which is determined by the number of people living in the state.

The Pew Charitable Trust is providing the funding for a special exhibition entitled "Great Essentials" which houses the surviving copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of the United States. These three displays represent three of the worlds most influential and important political documents. This is a clear illustration (according to the booklet distributed by the Pew Trust) of the "power of words and demonstrate how revolution often follows clearly expressed ideas. The revolutionary momentum triggered and reinforced by inspirational language is unmistakable; the impact of the printed word when widely circulated is undeniable."

When our founding fathers were searching for important ideas to integrate into the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of the United States, they researched the principles presented by the greatest philosophers of the time. They worked carefully and into the night, reading numerous documents. They then distilled and refined these ideas by discussing them with their colleagues and committing them to print. Looking at the process used by our forefathers is a very useful lesson for youngsters and adults. These same procedures would be valuable today. As you read the wording of the three documents, you must admire the insight and foresight that went into them.

The award winning Lights of Liberty Show is very inspirational. It outlines the spirit of the American Revolution where it took place. The story of the Americans brave struggle to obtain independence from Britain is depicted through 3-D sound, special effects and spectacular 5 story projections.

The Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross' House, Elfreth's Alley, Carpenters Hall and the Independence Seaport Museum were very interesting. Don't miss the many interactive exhibits at the Franklin Institute. The 3-D movie on Space Travel and the Imax film on Antarctica are very informative.

It is always a delight to go back to ones roots. On this trip to Philadelphia we did this in two ways - (1) by enjoying time with our family and (2) by looking once again at the roots of our democracy.

If you are taking a trip this summer with your family, Philadelphia is a great city to visit. It has so many varied activities that everyone will find many things to enjoy


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