David Bruce Smith’s Grateful American™ Foundation is dedicated to restoring enthusiasm in American history, for kids and adults.
Founded on President’s Day 2014, the mission of the organization is to provide insight and increase interest in the people and events that helped establish the United States. The first phase of the project has highlighted the work and lives of the founding presidents, from George Washington through Abraham Lincoln.
This year, on July 4, 2016, Smith launched a new website that is completely focused on kids: www.GratefulAmericanKids.com.
Scroll down for an interview about Grateful American™ Kids between Hope Katz Gibbs, executive producer of both projects, and Smith. The interview was conducted at the historic site of Patrick Henry’s famous “Give me liberty or give me death” speech — at St. John’s Church in Richmond, VA.
Hope Katz Gibbs: What inspired you to launch Grateful American™ Kids?
David Bruce Smith: We’ve all seen the research about how kids are not being taught history effectively, and with that comes the tendency to slough it off. We need to have the same feeling of patriotism that existed after 9/11, but without the framework of a disaster. I think the title, “Grateful American™ Kids,” will be fun and help stimulate some of those thoughts.
Hope Katz Gibbs: What are your goals for the project?
David Bruce Smith: GratefulAmericanKids.com is focused solely on making history come to life for children. Every other month, we will feature a new cover story with a video that stars kids. And we’ll have a history book of the month, fascinating historic facts of the week, recipes from the Colonial era, art and essays by kids that feature what they are learning in school about American history — and more!
Hope Katz Gibbs: What is the first video about?
David Bruce Smith: That one is really fun. It’s called Grateful American™ Kids Rock, which you wrote the lyrics to. We had first, second, and third grade and kindergarten students from The Steward School in Richmond perform it, and the music was written by two of The Steward School’s music teachers, Bonnie Anderson and John McAlister.
Hope Katz Gibbs: What will some of the other videos feature?
David Bruce Smith: We have already shot a video about Charles Willson Peale, a Revolutionary Era painter. And we’ll be doing one on Patrick Henry. Then we’ll head up to Mount Vernon to feature George and Martha Washington, and to President Lincoln’s Cottage later in 2017.
Hope Katz Gibbs: This approach to making history fun sounds like a better approach than textbooks, facts, and dates.
David Bruce Smith: Textbooks can be part of the problem, in that they cover the sweep of history unevenly or not at all. Sometimes they are also too complicated and verbose. I think it’s good to mix standard texts with films, biographies, diaries, and guest speakers.
Hope Katz Gibbs: When you were a kid, who was your favorite president, and why?
David Bruce Smith: Definitely Abraham Lincoln. Ever since I was a little boy, Lincoln has been my favorite for one reason: He freed the slaves. Had he not, it would have been many years before anybody else was bold and brave enough to do it.
Hope Katz Gibbs: You also have a great appreciation for the nation’s first ladies, and the women who shaped America’s early history. Why is that, and what are some of your favorite stories about these ladies?
David Bruce Smith: Some of the first ladies are under-recognized for their contributions to their husband’s successes. For example: Had it not been for Abigail Adams, I don’t think John Adams would have become president. He was difficult and moody, but she evened him out. Dolley Madison filled in the weaknesses of James Madison. While he was bookish and scholarly, she had personality, and she was a great hostess. As a couple they were a perfect combination.
Hope Katz Gibbs: If you could accomplish one thing with Grateful American™ Kids, what would it be?
David Bruce Smith: To develop an appreciation for history. This shouldn’t be a difficult thing to do, especially if the challenge is properly framed. If one thinks about the whole — or a piece — of it as an Ancestry.com on the country, it should make more sense, and be fun to learn.
For more information, visit GratefulAmericanKids.com