Kicking off the fall education season at Freedoms Foundation, the AMVETs Spirit of America Youth Leadership Program began Thursday, Nov. 7, with orientation and introductory activities to help 65 students, their chaperones and their AMVETS sponsors from across the country get to know each other and form the core groups that will work and study closely together over the weekend.
The largest delegation of students, almost a third, flew in from California, representing Fresno, Los Angels and San Francisco. Several of the other participants hailed from Georgia and Maryland.
Friday promises to be busy, starting with a visit from John and Abigail Adams, discussing their lives and the interesting times in which they lived. Then the Freedom Summit, two sessions that challenge students to think through balancing tensions and competing interests in a democratic society, such as liberty vs. security. Returning to lead the Summit are Dr. Bruce Murphy, Fred Morgan Kirby Professor of Civil Rights at Lafayette College, and Dr. Graham Lee, professor emeritus of political science at St. Joseph University.
In the evening students will experience the Medal of Honor Character Development Program, learning how recipients of the nation’s highest award for valor exemplify the virtues of courage, commitment, sacrifice, patriotism, integrity and citizenship. The program has been developed by the Medal of Honor Foundation.
After all that hard work, the day ends with an ice cream social.
Saturday the students and their chaperones head off Freedoms Foundation’s Valley Forge campus to Philadelphia. They will take on important roles in a mock trial at the Criminal Justice Center, an exercise that emphasizes the importance of temperament, prudence and good judgment.
After lunch at Reading Terminal Market, the afternoon is all but revisiting the City of Brotherly Love’s colonial roots, with stops at Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Franklin Court, Carpenters Hall, Christ Church and the Betsy Ross House.
When they return, it’s banquet time, with a keynote address, “Leading Significant Lives,” by business consultant and motivational speaker Dan LeClerc.
Next up, the group assembles in the Faith of Our Father Chapel for vespers service and the Signers Ceremony, presided over by Founding Father James Wilson. There, students are asked to step forward and sign a Declaration of Independence just as the Founders did in 1776, pledging their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.
The weekend ends Sunday, Nov. 10. But before they board planes for home, Spirit of America participants are treated to one more inspirational moment, walking in the footsteps of Gen. George Washington and his troops at nearby Valley Forge National Historical Park.