The 2016 United States Senate Youth delegates had a unique opportunity to visit a lavish and historic D.C. mansion that is home to the Society of the Cincinnati, and to hear from one of the nation’s renowned scholars of the Revolutionary War era.
Welcoming the group to the magnificent Anderson House was historian Jack Warren, the executive director of the Society of the Cincinnati, the nation’s oldest patriotic organization. Founded in 1783 by officers of the Continental Army and their French counterparts who served together in the American Revolution, the Society of the Cincinnati’s mission is to promote knowledge and appreciation of the achievement of American independence.
Mr. Warren brought to life those who ushered in a new form of government to the world stage, forever changing society. “The world that we live in began then,” Mr. Warren said, “when people stood up and said ‘We are going to create a nation for the first time in human history, for the very first time, a nation whose purpose is to promote the interests and defend the liberties of ordinary people.’”
One of Mr. Warren’s professional passions is to connect modern Americans to the human side of our nation’s Founding Fathers. In a speech he delivered at George Washington’s Mount Vernon home, Mr. Warren said, “We talk about our revolution more than any other people in the world talk about their revolution, if they have had one. But, we tend to focus on the philosophy and rationale behind it rather than the battles and the men who commanded those battles. We tend to lose sight of the fact that the Revolutionary War was made up of people who were prepared to give their lives for the cause. And, many of them did,” he added.
“No American war since has produced such a diverse group of general officers,” he continued. “Our Revolutionary War, in many ways, is a great romantic drama where the soldiers’ lives are reflected through their deeds. Many of Washington’s generals had far more military experience than he did. And, in some cases, at the beginning, they resented him being Commander-in-Chief. Washington’s strength and brilliance was that he learned from his mistakes and he built a hard core of leaders around him that he trusted. By the end of the war, in his farewell address, he referred to them as his Band of Brothers.”
USSYP delegate Katherine Krolicki (NV – 2016) described her emotions from the Anderson House event in her reflection essay. “When Mr. Warren began his speech I was immediately captivated,” she wrote. “This man had a true love for service and his country. I was inspired by his words, and he even made me cry at some points during his speech. He reminded all of us that we need to be thankful to the Founding Fathers for what they have done for us, our country, and even the world.”
Delegate Brooke Hanes (IN – 2016) commented on the depth of information and spirit Mr. Warren conveyed. “Mr. Warren is likely the most patriotic individual I have ever met. I loved hearing from the perspective of someone who loves the United States and all that our country has done for the world, but also acknowledges our past mistakes. Mr. Warren stated something along the lines of, “The Founders and Framers were not perfect, but freedom and liberty had to start somewhere.”
A highlight of the afternoon was the opportunity to view some of the spectacular artifacts from the birth of our nation. The symbol of the eagle, an emblem of freedom, has special significance to the Society of the Cincinnati, and there are more than 30 historically important eagle images at Anderson House. Mr. Warren held aloft what he characterized as the crown jewel of the United States, a diamond eagle medal that George Washington’s brothers in arms in the American Revolution presented him in recognition of his service on the field of battle.
Tracing a direct line from our first president to the mission of the USSYP, Mr. Warren recalled a 1789 speech by George Washington; quoting, “It should be the highest ambition of every American to set aside his private interests and recognize that the choices that he makes will have consequences, not just for himself but for generations and generations.”
All photos by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin