As I was on the way to the grocery store to re-stock the refrigerator, I was changing stations on the radio and happened upon an interview on child-raising. The participants in the program were discussing parents' tendency to shelter children and not encourage them to do the hard things. Since I don't know what station I was listening to and the people talking did not identify themselves in the short time I listened, I don't know who they were or what the program was, but the man known to me only as Gary read from a letter that Abigail Adams, wife of the 2nd President of the United States, wrote to her son, John Quincy. He was only 9 years old and was on his way to France with his father. He had been reluctant to go, but Abigail saw the potential for character building in this trip and encouraged him to go even though it meant months of separations and anxiety because of the lack of communication in 1778. I was so struck by her words and the sacrifice she made for his good, that I looked to see if I could find the letter on the Internet. The site where I found it has many letters from a great many of our historical figures, if you are interested. Here is the link to the website: http://www.familytales.org/people.php
And here is Abigail's letter if you would like to read it without having to look it up.
MY DEAR SON,
T'is almost four months since you left your native land, and embarked upon the mighty waters, in quest of a foreign country. Although I have not particularly written to you since, yet you may be assured you have constantly been upon my heart and mind.
It is a very difficult task, my dear son, for a tender parent to bring her mind to part with a child of your years going to a distant land ; nor could I have acquiesced in such a separation under any other care than that of the most excellent parent and guardian who accompanied you. You have arrived at years capable of improving under the advantages you will be likely to have, if you do but properly attend to them. They are talents put into your hands, of which an account will be required of you hereafter ; and, being possessed of one, two, or four, see to it that you double your numbers.
The most amiable and most useful disposition in a young mind is diffidence of itself; and this should lead you to seek advice and instruction from him, who is your natural guardian, and will always counsel and direct you in the best manner, both for your present and future happiness. You are in possession of a natural good understanding, and of spirits unbroken by adversity and untamed with care. Improve your understanding by acquiring useful knowledge and virtue, such as will render you an ornament to society, an honor to your country, and a blessing to your parents. Great learning and superior abilities, should you ever possess them, will be of little value and small estimation, unless virtue, honor, truth, and integrity are added to them. Adhere to those religious sentiments and principles which were early instilled into your mind, and remember, that you are accountable to your Maker for all your words and actions.
Let me enjoin it upon you to attend constantly and steadfastly to the precepts and instructions of your father, as you value the happiness of your mother and your own welfare. His care and attention to you render many things unnecessary for me to write, which I might otherwise do ; bat the inadvertency and heedlessness of youth require line upon line and precept upon precept, and, when enforced by the joint efforts of both parents, will, I hope, have a due influence upon your conduct ; for, dear as you are to me, I would much rather you should have found your grave in the ocean you have crossed, or that any untimely death crop you in your infant years, than see you an immoral, profligate, or grace less child.
You have entered early in life upon the great theatre of the world, which is full of temptations and vice of every kind. You are not wholly unacquainted with history, in which you have read of crimes which your inexperienced mind could scarcely believe credible. You have been taught to think of them with horror, and to view vice as" a monster of so frightful mien, That, to be hated, needs but to be seen."
Yet you must keep a strict guard upon yourself, or the odious monster will soon lose its terror by be coming familiar to you. The modern history of our own times, furnishes as black a list of crimes, as can be paralleled in ancient times, even if we go back to Nero, Caligula, or Caesar Borgia. Young as you are, the cruel war, into which we have been compelled by the haughty tyrant of Britain and the bloody emissaries of his vengeance, may stamp upon your mind this certain truth, that the welfare and prosperity of all countries, communities, and, I may add, individuals, depend upon their morals. That nation to which we were once united, as it has departed from justice, eluded and subverted the wise laws which formerly governed it, and suffered the worst of crimes to go unpunished, has lost its valor, wisdom, and humanity, and, from being the dread and terror of Europe, has sunk into derision and infamy.
But, to quit political subjects, I have been greatly anxious for your safety, having never heard of the frigate since she sailed, till, about a week ago, a New York paper informed, that she was taken and carried into Plymouth. I did not fully credit this report, though it gave me much uneasiness. I yesterday heard that a French vessel was arrived at Portsmouth, which brought news of the safe arrival of the Boston ; but this wants confirmation. I hope it will not be long before I shall be assured of your safety. You must write me an account of your voyage, of your situation, and of every thing entertaining you can recollect.
Be assured I am most affectionately yours,
The wisdom, dedication, and vision of our Founding Fathers and their willingness to sacrifice much for the good of all is evident throughout history. It seems that desire to work for the "greater good" has been lost in the past few decades as we focus more and more on ourselves. I pray that we, who have benefited from the sacrifices made to make it possible for us to have the benefits we now enjoy, will regain that vision and desire to give of ourselves to a greater purpose. Let us train our children with this sense of destiny and purpose, just as John & Abigail helped John Quincy to become a man of great moral character. So, too, must we do that for our children if the freedoms they fought so strongly for are to survive into the next generation.