State and national parks play an important role in reminding visitors of the unique heritage we share in America as free and independent people by retelling the stories of our ancestors who often endured hardship or even death in securing the freedoms many of us take for granted. On a recent trip to Jamestown and Yorktown national parks, I listened while park rangers interpreted our nation’s history, often focusing on the nation’s faults rather than reminding visitors that the United States  is the most free and prosperous nation in the history of the world.

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It is critical that American history be told accurately. It is also true that history is made by people who are never without fault. The subtle but pervasive message from the National Park Service, if Jamestown and Yorktown are the norm, however, is that America’s founding and settlement is a story of conquest by imperialistic white men. 

President Ronald Reagan reminded us that our freedom as Americans is never more than one generation away from being lost. Perhaps it is not surprising that when national leaders such as President Obama make public statements that indicate they do not believe in the “exceptionalism of America,” that federal park rangers would be influenced in their interpretation of our history.

Benjamin Franklin reminded us that the founding fathers had given us “a republic, if you can keep it.” If we as a people do not believe that America is indeed exceptional and stands as a beacon of light to a world where most people live under tyranny – we will lose that freedom.