IN 1978, I won my first election to Congress, replacing a pro-segregation Democrat. The first day in office, I co-sponsored a bill to make Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday.
I believed strongly in Rev. King’s vision because it echoed the vision of some of America’s greatest heroes – men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
His dream of a nation in which people are judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character epitomized the central principles of our founding – which ultimately he proclaimed to be the most potent and effective weapons against bigotry and injustice.
All Americans can be proud of how much progress we’ve made toward realizing Rev. King’s dream. Unfortunately, there is a new and angry movement in America that rejects this vision. They are trying to take us backwards to a place of tribalism, division and resentment.
This development is most alarming in many of our K-12 schools, where children are being indoctrinated with Critical Race Theory-infused curriculum that slanders our history and pits students against one another on the basis of race.
With their recent vote to stop this anti-American poison from polluting New Hampshire classrooms, the members of the New Hampshire House and Senate majorities showed real leadership and I hope their efforts are successful.
Until now, the proponents of Critical Race Theory (CRT) have been on offense. They dishonestly wrap their arguments in idealistic terms like “equity” and “inclusion,” accuse their opponents of trying to suppress any discussion of race, and tout themselves as defenders of the First Amendment – ironically, written by the Founding Fathers they so often denigrate.
In reality however, it is this cult-like embrace of CRT that is suppressing free speech and promulgating racial division.
Take the case of Dan Richards, a father of two elementary age students in Hanover, whose life has been turned upside down since challenging the curriculum at his children’s school.
Horrified to learn that a particular syllabus included a quiz tying the Declaration of Independence to the origins of White supremacy, he began to ask questions.
When he challenged the school to be transparent about CRT and advocated for legislation to prohibit it, a CRT-trained administrator told him, twice, that people with his opinions are not allowed to speak. “I’ve been trained to interrupt you,” she stated. And as his local activism against CRT has increased, he and his family have been slandered as racists and White supremacists.
Or take the testimony of an 11th-grader in Hollis, recently submitted to the superintendent by a state legislator: “I’m afraid to share my beliefs. This is because we are labeled as racists and sexist for doing so. I’ve been pressured by a few teachers to believe different political views and it made me very uncomfortable. Critical Race Theory teachings only add to the division in our school.”
This is the toxic environment being created by CRT, and New Hampshire taxpayers are funding it.
The growing grassroots opposition to CRT across America is vital, but governors, state legislators and school board officials are the other half of the equation and they owe it to their constituents to take a clear position and act.
I’m particularly encouraged by the momentum of “The 1776 Pledge to Save Our Schools,” launched by 1776 Action to help voters evaluate candidates on these specific issues, and I’d encourage every public official and candidate for public office to sign it.
In 1776, three brave men from New Hampshire signed their names to the Declaration of Independence. They, and 53 of their peers, risked their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor for the chance to build a new nation upon the revolutionary idea that we are all created equal.
Pursuing that vision has been the noble cause of generations of Americans, and our work is far from finished. But America is a better place today because great leaders like Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. chose to embrace the premise, and the promise, of America.
The legislators in Concord working to defeat CRT are continuing that fight.
For the sake of our children and grandchildren, they should carry forward, unafraid.