Last night I had the privilege of attending the opening of the newly renovated Henrico County Library located north of Parham on Staples Mill Road. I was shocked and you would be too when you walk into the lavish 9 million dollar, 25,000 foot learning palace. Board Supervisor, Dick Glover, the brainchild of this beauty has been a champion in leading this Library to be a place of excellence. I like Barnes & Noble, but this public library is one step above all else. It has 40 computers, large meeting rooms, 2 study rooms, 1 quiet reading room, a larger children’s area with dedicated story time and craft rooms, a large teen area, a fireplace, and a courtyard. It also comes with conference rooms.
Mr. Glover and the county of Henrico did something else, though, that surprised me. They have a huge section called the Founding Fathers Collection. It has all kinds of materials on the Founding Fathers’ writings, including books, large volumes of CDs and DVDs to educate the public on what the Fathers’ thoughts were when they drafted the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and other documents that formed our nation. They even have a large wall with the Founding Fathers signing the Constitution. I was so taken aback they had to put me out the library. The even have this little thing like an MP3 that you can check out that has the full autobiographies of such people like Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, and others. It is no less than a smorgasbord of information on the Founders and the creation of our now America.
As an African American, I never much looked at this part of our history because it was considered a white man’s history. But since I began to read the works of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and others, I was fascinated with these legends of history. Jamie Radtke (President of the Richmond Tea Party) once quoted Thomas Paine and spoke of him in her talks. I wanted to find out who this guy was that she was so passionate about. I had an opportunity to read some of his writings and said to myself, “Wow!” I began to see that these men were geniuses and scholars at designing such a nation as ours from scratch.
I bet you didn’t know that Ben Franklin cared little or none about slaves when he was young. When he was middle age he owned a few slaves, but as he got older a trip to England changed his mind. When he found that slavery was wrong, he freed his slaves and worked to set others free. I never learned that is school! I don’t think many of my black friends know this either. That told me something about the person of Ben Franklin. Now I have an appreciation for who he is as a Founding Father of this nation. And I know that my defense in the cause of liberty has to go back to the original intent. We cannot defend core values if we have no idea of what those core values are.
This new library provides a place where we can readily get the information and make our arguments based on original intent. Studying our Founders’ words and lives gives me the fuel to push all the stumbling blocks out the way. For those of us in the battle for freedom, do we know everything in those documents that give us that freedom? If we did, we would be on even more fire to fight for our country. Short of that, though, how can we hope to change the mindset of others? We have no grasp of how far we have drifted if we don’t fully comprehend where we started. If you cannot make it to this library I hope that you will find this critical information elsewhere to persuade others to come back to the core principles that you and I value so much.