Former pres­ident Donald Trump announced the cre­ation of the 1776 Com­mission during Con­sti­tution Day 2020. | Flickr

Editor’s note: On Monday, former pres­ident Donald Trump’s Advisory 1776 Com­mission issued its report on “patriotic edu­cation.” Led by Hillsdale College Pres­ident Larry Arnn, as its chairman, and Vice Pres­ident of Hillsdale’s Wash­ington Oper­a­tions Matthew Spalding, as its exec­utive director, the report aims to cul­tivate “a better edu­cation among Amer­icans in the prin­ciples and history of our nation.” Here is an excerpt from its introduction. 


To read the full report, go to:


In the course of human events there have always been those who deny or reject human freedom, but Amer­icans will never falter in defending the fun­da­mental truths of human liberty pro­claimed on July 4, 1776. We will — we must — always hold these truths.

The declared purpose of the President’s Advisory 1776 Com­mission is to “enable a rising gen­er­ation to under­stand the history and prin­ciples of the founding of the United States in 1776 and to strive to form a more perfect Union.” This requires a restoration of American edu­cation, which can only be grounded on a history of those prin­ciples that is “accurate, honest, uni­fying, inspiring, and ennobling.” And a redis­covery of our shared identity rooted in our founding prin­ciples is the path to a renewed American unity and a con­fident American future.

The Commission’s first respon­si­bility is to produce a report sum­ma­rizing the prin­ciples of the American founding and how those prin­ciples have shaped our country. That can only be done by truth­fully recounting the aspi­ra­tions and actions of the men and women who sought to build America as a shining “city on a hill” — an exem­plary nation, one that pro­tects the safety and pro­motes the hap­piness of its people, as an example to be admired and emu­lated by nations of the world that wish to steer their gov­ernment toward greater liberty and justice. The record of our founders’ striving and the nation they built is our shared inher­i­tance and remains a beacon, as Abraham Lincoln said, “not for one people or one time, but for all people for all time.”

Today, however, Amer­icans are deeply divided about the meaning of their country, its history, and how it should be gov­erned. This division is severe enough to call to mind the dis­agree­ments between the colonists and King George, and those between the Con­fed­erate and Union forces in the Civil War. They amount to a dispute over not only the history of our country but also its present purpose and future direction.

The facts of our founding are not par­tisan. They are a matter of history. Con­tro­versies about the meaning of the founding can begin to be resolved by looking at the facts of our nation’s founding. Properly under­stood, these facts address the con­cerns and aspi­ra­tions of Amer­icans of all social classes, income levels, races and reli­gions, regions and walks of life. As well, these facts provide nec­essary — and wise — cau­tions against unre­al­istic hopes and checks against pressing par­tisan claims or utopian agendas too hard or too far.

The prin­ciples of the American founding can be learned by studying the abundant doc­u­ments con­tained in the record. Read fully and care­fully, they show how the American people have ever pursued freedom and justice, which are the political con­di­tions for living well. To learn this history is to become a better person, a better citizen, and a better partner in the American exper­iment of self-government.

Com­prising actions by imperfect human beings, the American story has its share of mis­steps, errors, con­tra­dic­tions, and wrongs. These wrongs have always met resis­tance from the clear prin­ciples of the nation, and therefore our history is far more one of self-sac­rifice, courage, and nobility. America’s prin­ciples are named at the outset to be both uni­versal — applying to everyone — and eternal: existing for all time. The remarkable American story unfolds under and because of these great principles.

Of course, neither America nor any other nation has per­fectly lived up to the uni­versal truths of equality, liberty, justice, and gov­ernment by consent. But no nation before America ever dared state those truths as the formal basis for its pol­itics, and none has strived harder, or done more, to achieve them.

Lincoln aptly described the American government’s fun­da­mental prin­ciples as “a standard maxim for free society,” which should be “familiar to all, and revered by all; con­stantly looked to, con­stantly labored for, and even though never per­fectly attained, con­stantly approximated.” 

But the very attempt to attain them — every attempt to attain them — would, Lincoln con­tinued, con­stantly spread and deepen the influence of these prin­ciples and augment “the hap­piness and value of life to all people of all colors every­where.” The story of America is the story of this ennobling struggle.

The President’s Advisory 1776 Com­mission presents this first report with the intention of cul­ti­vating a better edu­cation among Amer­icans in the prin­ciples and history of our nation and in the hope that a redis­covery of those prin­ciples and the forms of con­sti­tu­tional gov­ernment will lead to a more perfect Union.