Flags Unfurled: Presley O’Bannon – Tripoli Hero to Marine Corps Legend

Growing up with the name O’Bannon I was vaguely aware that there was a famous person named Presley O’Bannon who was important in American History. When I got married 37 years ago to a Marine Corp veteran who has a degree in history, I was informed that not only was Presley O’Bannon an important figure in history, he was especially important to the Marines. The United States Marine Corps hymn opens with “From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli, we fight our country’s battles on the land and on the sea.” Presley O’Bannon was the man who led battles on the shores of Tripoli from whence the song lyrics came.

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Commentary: Teaching Unbiased American History

In his Gettysburg Address at the height of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln pointed out that the United States was “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” “Now,” he continued, “we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

Thankfully, we are not in a civil war today – and, one hopes, never will be again. We are, however, in a battle for the soul of our country.

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Commentary: Great American Stories Such as ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

Bert and Ernie

This week in 1946, “It’s a Wonderful Life” was screened for the first time at the Globe Theatre in New York City. Audiences weren’t quite sure what to make of the film, even though it starred Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed and was directed by Frank Capra. Perhaps the economic jeopardy of life in Depression-era small towns was still all too real. Or maybe the specter of sons and husbands returning from the front reminded audiences of how many American fighting men had not come back from Europe or the Pacific.

Stewart, the leading man who portrayed small-town savings-and-loan owner George Bailey in Capra’s movie, was such a charismatic leading man that when studio executive Jack Warner heard in 1965 about Ronald Reagan’s plans to run for governor of California, he quipped, “No, no! Jimmy Stewart for governor. Ronald Reagan for best friend.”

But casting in movies, as in life, can be deceiving. It was something of an in-joke, for instance, to have Jimmy Stewart play the older brother who flunks his Army physical in “It’s a Wonderful Life” and can’t go to war. In real life, Stewart and Frank Capra both enlisted in the military after making “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” together in 1939. The Italian-born Capra, then in his 40s, produced an evocative series of films for the military called “Why We Fight.” Stewart did his part, too, and then some. After winning Best Actor for his role in 1940’s “The Philadelphia Story,” Stewart had become the most bankable star in Hollywood. Nonetheless, by the time Pearl Harbor was bombed, he was already in uniform, pulling duty at Moffett Field, south of San Francisco, in the Army Air Corps. By the end of World War II, Stewart had flown 20 combat missions in a B-24, become a squadron leader, been awarded a chest full of medals, and risen in rank from corporal to colonel.

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Commentary: Recall, Remove and Replace Every Last Soros Prosecutor

George Soros

Last year, our nation experienced the largest increase in murder in American history and the largest number of drug overdose deaths ever recorded. This carnage continues today and is not distributed equally. Instead, it is concentrated in cities and localities where radical, left-wing, George Soros progressives have captured state and district attorney offices. These legal arsonists condemn our rule of law as “systemically racist” and have not simply abused prosecutorial discretion, they have embraced prosecutorial nullification. As a result, a contagion of crime has infected virtually every neighborhood under their charge.

Soros prosecutors refuse to enforce laws against shoplifting, drug trafficking, and entire categories of felonies and misdemeanors. In Chicago, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx allows theft under $1,000 to go unpunished. In Manhattan, District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. refuses to enforce laws against prostitution. In Baltimore, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has unilaterally declared the war on drugs “over” and is refusing to criminally charge drug dealers in the middle of the worst drug crisis in American history. For a time, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon even stopped enforcing laws against disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, and making criminal threats.

All of these cities have paid a terrible price for these insane policies. Last year, the number of homicides in Chicago rose by 56%, and more than 1,000 Cook County residents have been murdered in 2021. In New York City, murder increased 47% and shootings soared 97%. In 2020, the murder rate in Baltimore was higher than El Salvador’s or Guatemala’s — nations from which citizens often attempt to claim asylum purely based on gang violence and murder—and this year murder in Baltimore is on track to be even higher. Murder in Los Angeles rose 36% last year and is on track to rise another 17% this year.

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Commentary: The War on Thomas Jefferson

Portrait of Jefferson in his late 50s with a full head of hair

The final decision, after years of debate, was made on Oct. 8 to remove from the New York City Council chambers the statue of the man we all know to have been a dreaded slaveholder—to the tune of 600 over his lifetime—Thomas Jefferson.

Despite that, writing at Bari Weiss’s Substack, political science professor Samuel Goldman, with whom I concur, is less than happy.

“The removal is disgraceful. Unlike monuments to Confederate leaders that display them in full military glory, Jefferson is depicted as a writer. Holding a quill pen in one hand and the Declaration of Independence in the other, he is clearly being honored for composing an immortal argument for liberty and equality.”

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Commentary: America’s Students Deserve a History and Civics Education Free of Political Agendas

Across the political spectrum, Americans are recognizing the importance not just of school choice but of what students actually learn in schools. Elected representatives have finally taken notice as well. In Michigan, the state legislature has proposed two bills that seek to address how American history and civics are taught.

Unfortunately, some want teachers to tell students that they should understand American history primarily by looking for racism, injustice, and oppression. The phrase “critical race theory” (CRT) has been used mainly in academia to describe this filter on history and civic instruction.

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Commentary: The Movement of Black Lives Matter

If Black Lives Matter were a civil rights organization, one would reasonably expect its patron figure to be Martin Luther King, Jr., and its aspiration to be King’s vision of a race-free America where individuals are judged on their merits and not by their skin color. Instead, the revered figure and inspirational icon for Black Lives Matter activists is a designated terrorist and convicted cop killer: Assata Shakur. 

In the 1970s Shakur was a member of the Black Liberation Army, a group that robbed banks and murdered police officers to achieve a Marxist revolution. Shakur is still wanted for the 1973 murder of Werner Foerster, a New Jersey state trooper who stopped her for a broken taillight on her car, whereupon she pulled out a gun and shot him. The 34-year-old officer and Vietnam vet was lying wounded on the pavement pleading for his life when Shakur walked over and finished him off, execution-style. Foerster left behind a wife and two young children. Shakur was convicted of the murder but escaped from prison in 1979 with the help of left-wing terrorists, including Susan Rosenberg. With the help of Rosenberg and others, Shakur fled to Communist Cuba, where she has lived as a fugitive for nearly 40 years. After being pardoned by Bill Clinton, Rosenberg went on to become board vice chair of Thousand Currents, the left-wing nonprofit organization that served as Black Lives Matter’s fiscal sponsor from 2016 to 2020. 

The dedication page of Patrisse Cullors’s memoir, When They Call You a Terrorist, contains these lines written by Shakur, which allude to the most famous incitement from Marx’s Communist Manifesto:

It is our duty to fight for our freedom. 

It is our duty to win. 

We must love each other and support each other. 

We have nothing to lose but our chains.

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Newt Gingrich Commentary: General Lee and the Importance of Preserving American History

Earlier this month, a 21-foot-tall bronze statue of Robert E. Lee — perhaps the most famous monument to the Confederate general — was removed from Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va. Supporters of the statue’s removal, including Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), hailed the event as a triumph for racial justice.

The left has decided that Lee, the most recognized and celebrated figure of the Confederacy, is intolerable, a man who should be erased from American history. This maelstrom surrounding Lee has reached a fever pitch in recent years, as the woke movement has grown.

In short, anyone who dares mention Lee at all better demonize him as pure evil or else face the wrath of the progressive mob. This is retroactively imposing cancel culture on the past, while silencing free speech today.
In this context, Allen Guelzo’s newly released biography on the Confederate general, Robert E. Lee: A Life, is especially welcome and important.

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Commentary: Historians Selling Out for Leftist Star, Nikole Hannah-Jones

Nikole Hannah-Jones

The University of North Carolina’s decision on June 30 to offer tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones came about through a torrent of threats (often tweeted), profanities, doxxings, and assaults—tactics that have become increasingly commonplace among professional activists and racial grievance-mongers.

Hannah-Jones, of course, is the Pulitzer Prize-winning opinion writer and architect of the New York Times’ notorious “1619 Project,” which claims that America’s true founding was not in 1776 but rather in 1619, when 20 or so African slaves arrived in Virginia. Hannah-Jones contends, moreover, that the American War of Independence was fought solely to preserve slavery. 

More than two-dozen credible historians, many of them political liberals and leftists, have debunked Hannah-Jones’ claims. Though, as we’ll see, some are less firm in their convictions than others. What’s clear, however, is that peer review is passé in the era of “diversity, equity, and inclusion.” Forget a stellar record of scholarly accomplishment—that’s a relic of “Eurocentrism.” Far more important these days is a candidate’s enthusiasm for social justice. It was Hannah-Jones’ celebrity activism and her “journalism,” not her scholarship, that formed the basis for the university’s initial offer of tenure earlier in the spring.

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University of North Carolina Revokes Tenure Offer for ‘1619’ Founder Nikole Hannah-Jones

Nikole Hannah-Jones

The University of North Carolina, after briefly considering the possibility of offering a full-time tenured position to Nikole Hannah-Jones, has ultimately reneged and turned down the offer due to mounting pressure, the New York Post reports.

Jones, the founder of the controversial “1619 Project” and an alumnus of the university, is now reportedly being considered for a mere five-year contract where she would instead serve as a “professor of practice.” The decision was ultimately made by UNC’s board of trustees, even though the left-wing faculty of the university overwhelmingly supported hiring her full-time.

Susan King, dean of UNC’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media, called the decision “disappointing” and “chilling,” before baselessly claiming that Jones “represents the best of our alumni and the best of our business.”

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Commentary: Too Much of a Unity

“The city comes in to being for the sake of life, but it continues for the sake of the good life. ” — Aristotle, Politics

“[The Declaration of Independence] was the word, “fitly spoken” which has proved an “apple of gold” to us. The Union, and the Constitution, are the picture of silver, subsequently framed around it. The picture was made, not to conceal, or destroy the apple; but to adorn, and preserve it. The picture was made for the apple — not the apple for the picture.”—Abraham Lincoln, “Fragment on the Constitution and Union”

The crisis of our time requires clear thinking about political means and ends, and the ways they are connected. The two epigraphs above address this central question of practical wisdom—the first from the general perspective of theory, the second as relates to the particular nation of the United States. Both quotations may be familiar to educated conservatives, and particularly to those students of political philosophy broadly associated with the Claremont school of thought. Yet there is a danger that such familiarity may breed, if not contempt, then the forgetfulness that settles on “sonorous phrases” which lapse into clichés. I would like to reconsider these arguments made by Aristotle and Lincoln—along with some related observations by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson—not as hackneyed commonplaces but as genuine insights that remain relevant and even urgent. Circumstances in the coming years may require new or unusual means to secure the ends of liberty and justice. Our thinking must be appropriately radical.

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Commentary: Reflections on the Bill of Rights

The deep divisions plaguing our country may find a remedy in the most unlikely of places: the Bill of Rights. Ratified 229 years ago on December 15, 1791, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution are known collectively as the Bill of Rights. There is little public commemoration of December 15, in contrast to the tradition of celebrating two famous dates in the history of the United States—the Fourth of July, the day that the Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776, and September 17, the day that the members of the Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution in Philadelphia in 1787. Yet, of the three documents, the Bill of Rights is perhaps the one most invoked by citizens and advocates in everyday life.

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Americanism and the Spirit of American Liberty

In 1782, just as the American War of Independence was coming to an end, Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, who had come to North America from France in 1755 and by 1765 had settled in New York, published Letters from an American Farmer. In it, he asked a fascinating and enduring question: “What then is the American, this new man?” Crèvecoeur’s question suggests that 18th-century Americans were somehow different from all other peoples, and thus he invites us, some 230 years later, to reflect on the nature and meaning of America.

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Commentary: A History Textbook That Inspires, Not Lectures, Students About America

by Jenna Robinson   From the very beginning, it’s clear that Wilfred M. McClay’s Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story isn’t a typical textbook. The title alone alerts readers that McClay’s book will not be the kind of history text that has become so popular in…

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Commentary: ‘Exactly When Did You Think America Was Great?’ Says Eric Holder. Here’s the Answer.

by Jarret Stepman   There’s no doubt that one of the flashpoints of the modern culture war in America is the debate over our nation’s history. On one side, there are Americans who believe that the United States is a unique country, a shining city upon a hill that while…

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Commentary: Fight the Denigration of American History

by Michael Finch   American history is everywhere under attack. The recent skirmishes started with the campaign to remove Confederate statues, but it surely won’t end there. As our betters in America’s universities want us to know, the whole of American history is suspect. In our media, in the popular…

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