The Story of Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Making of Hamilton

Have you heard about the musical Hamilton? Maybe you’ve seen the movie on Disney Plus, listened to the music, or actually seen a live performance. My kids and I enjoy listening to the music. It’s catchy and fun to sing along, and what’s also great is we learn something new while having a good time together! The musical Hamilton has been seen on Disney Plus and Broadway millions of times and has come to be one of the most popular musicals of all time. But how did the musical come to be? Do you know who wrote the story and lyrics and music? If you guessed Lin-Manuel Miranda you were right!

Lin-Manuel Miranda was born January 16, 1980 in New York, New York. 

Lin-Manuel’s parents were from Puerto Rican. Puerto Rico is an island and U.S. territory in the Carribean. Lin-Manuel  grew up in a Hispanic neighbourhood in northern Manhattan with his family. His unique name was inspired by a poem about the Vietnam War . His father worked in politics and helped  several of the mayors of New York City, and his mother was a psychologist. They often played salsa and show tunes, which are songs from musicals, at home.. 

During childhood and his teens, Lin-Manuel spent at least one month each year with his grandparents in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico. Lin-Manuel attended Hunter College Elementary School and Hunter College High School. He wrote some of his first musicals while growing up in school. 

Lin-Manuel saw his first Broadway musical, Les Misérables, when he was seven, and it made a life-long impression on him. His tastes also ran to hip-hop and R&B, and he became an excellent rapper. In high school he won the lead role in the musical The Pirates of Penzance and was very active in the school’s drama program. 

In school he met Stephen Sondheim, who later became a mentor to him, along with fellow musical-theatre legend John Kander. Lin-Manuel went on to study theatre at Wesleyan University, where he continued to perform in musicals and to write his own songs and shows.

It was there in 1999 that he wrote the first draft of his musical In the Heights, which was set in Washington Heights, a northern Manhattan neighbourhood similar to that of his own childhood. At college Lin-Manuel wrote and directed several other musicals and acted in many other productions, ranging from musicals to Shakespeare.

After graduating from college in 2002, Lin-Manuel  started an acting career, appearing in films and on television. He also performed with a hip-hop improvisation group, Freestyle Love Supreme around New York City and at festivals, including the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. 

At this time Lin-Manuel  continued to develop In the Heights with his friend Thomas Kail. The musical blended hip-hop and salsa. Lin-Manuel wrote the music and lyrics for the show. He also co-wrote a book with Quiara Alegría Hudes that is the complete script and all the song lyrics from the show. 

In the Heights opened Off-Broadway in February 2007 and ran until July, with Lin-Manuel in the lead role. It won two Drama Desk Awards. In the Heights had its Broadway debut in March 2008 and won four Tony Awards, including those for best musical and best original score. They also nominated the show for the Pulitzer Prize for drama, and its original-cast recording won the 2008 Grammy Award for best musical show album. 

Also, In the Heights will be available to everyone as a movie in theaters and on HBO in June 2021.

While Lin-Manuel was on vacation in 2008, he read a book about the U.S. Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton. The biography was written by Ron Chernow and told Hamilton’s life story. Lin-Manuel was inspired by Hamilton’s life, from his difficult childhood in the Caribbean island to his move to New York and the part he played in the American Revolution,  eventually becoming the U.S. secretary of the treasury. Lin-Manuel saw an important story that needed to be told and the wheels in his head started to turn. 

In Alexander Hamilton’s story, Lin-Manuel saw one that was very similar to that of the simple beginnings of many famous rappers. It inspired him to write a rap about Alexander Hamilton. In 2009 he later performed it for  the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word before President Barack Obama and others.

Lin-Manuel later said he spent a year writing the Hamilton song “My Shot”, changing it countless times for every verse to reflect Alexander Hamilton’s smarts. By 2012, Lin-Manuel was performing an extended set of pieces based on the life of Alexander Hamilton, which he then referred to as the Hamilton Mixtape. The New York Times called it “an obvious game changer”.

The resulting show, which Lin-Manuel called “Hamilton” was smart, energetic, catchy, and immediately popular with audiences, and featured a racially diverse cast, with Lin-Manuel starring in the main role of Alexander Hamilton. In January 2015 the musical opened Off-Broadway at New York City’s Public Theater. It was so successful it made an early move to Broadway in July.

In 2016 they awarded Hamilton the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and that year it received an outstanding 16 Tony nominations, which rarely happens. Lin-Manuel earned several nods, including best actor in a leading role in a musical. The production eventually won 11 Tonys, falling one short of the record. They named Hamilton best musical, and Lin-Manuel won for best book and best original score. 

On March 15, 2016, members of the cast of Hamilton performed at the White House and hosted workshops; Lin-Manuel performed freestyle rap from prompts held up by President Obama. Later In 2016, Miranda and Jeremy McCarter published Hamilton: The Revolution, a book describing Hamilton’s journey from idea to Broadway success. In July 2016 Lin-Manuel appeared for the last time in the show.

The following year the musical opened in London’s West End, where it was a critical and commercial success. It won seven Olivier Awards, including best new play. In addition, Lin-Manuel garnered the award for outstanding achievement in music. 

In 2017 Hurricane Maria hit the Carribean Islands. It was the worst recorded hurricane in history in that area of the world. Many lives and property was lost.  To help, Lin-Manuel briefly returned to his role as Alexander Hamilton in Puerto Rico and used the money made from the shows to help the people there. Lin-Manuel had been active in helping the people of Puerto Rico and the arts there over the years. 

Have you seen the Disney movie Moana? Lin-Manuel wrote the song “How Far I’ll Go” and sings parts of it. In the movie Mary Poppins Returns, he played Mary Poppins sidekick and chimney sweep, Bert. He also starred in the HBO TV series His Dark Materials. Today Lin-Manuel continues today to work on many projects with different studios, including Disney.

Lin-Manuel is an outstanding example of someone who found a talent he enjoyed and dedicated his life to improving it. Can you believe he spent a year working on the songs “Alexander Hamilton” and “My Shot”? Great things don’t come easy. Often they start off very imperfect and need to be worked on over and over until they improve with time and focus. He also wasn’t afraid to take risks by being original. Many of his close friends told him his idea for Alexander Hamilton wouldn’t work. A rap-musical about a founding father was a very unique and bold idea! But he kept working at it anyway until it was a great success!

Once Lin-Manuel reached fame and stardom, he didn’t only use the money he made for his own benefit. He has found many ways to give back to the communities he grew up in and places like Puerto Rico when it was hit by a devastating hurricane. He has also worked with charities that help children who are in foster care and are being adopted. 

What is something that you love to do? Think of what your next project might be related to your interests and set a goal. Plan out how you might work on that project each day until it becomes something better each time, so then you can share it like Lin-Manuel.

History of Alexander Hamilton for Kids

On July 3, 2020, to the great excitement of its fans Disney Plus released the musical film, Hamilton. After its release it became one of the most-streamed films of that year. The film was based on the 2015 Broadway musical of the same name.

The Hamilton musical was created by Lin-Manuel Miranda and inspired by the biography he read by Ron Chernow. The musical was first done as a show at Vassar College in 2013, then as an Off-Broadway show in 2015. On August 6, 2015, it had its Broadway premiere at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City. 

As of 2021 over 2.6 million people have watched the live performance of Hamilton, its album has been played on Spotify more than 145 million times, and over 2.7 million people have watched the movie on Disney Plus. Needless to say, Hamilton has been one of the most popular musicals of all time. Whether you’ve seen the musical or not, today we’re going to learn more about the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. 

Alexander was born on January 11, 1755, on the Island of Nevis, which at the time was part of the British West Indies. Actually, there is some doubt about whether his birth actually occurred in 1755 or in 1757. At 13, his father had left and his mother passed away from yellow fever, and Alexander and his brother found themselves as orphans.  

But Alexander kept going and took on his first job at an early age. He became  a clerk at a local import-export firm that traded with New York and New England. In 1969, Alexander and his brother James ahd to split up. James studied with a local carpenter while merchant Thomas Stevens gave Alexander a home. 

Even though Alexander was only a teenager, he  proved capable enough as a trader. He was left in charge of the business  for five months in 1771 while the owner was at sea. He read everything he could  and later developed an interest in writing. As he read and learned about the larger world, he wanted to leave the island where he grew up. 

In October 1772 Hamilton arrived by ship in Boston and traveled from there to New York City. He lived with Hercules Mulligan who helped Alexander sell cargo. This job helped pay for his education and living expenses.

In 1773, to prepare for college, Alexander filled gaps in his education at the Elizabethtown Academy prep school in New Jersey. It was there that he started learning from William Livingston.

Alexander entered King’s College (now known as Columbia University) in New York City in the fall of 1773 as a private student. They officially admitted him as a full student the next year. His college roommate Robert Troup spoke highly of Alexander’s intelligence. He also admired his ability to speak clearly and lead others.

Once the American Revolution began and After the first battle between American troops and the British in 1775, Alexander and other King’s College students joined a New York volunteer militia, the Hearts of Oak. A military is a small army. Hamilton studied military tactics on his own and was soon recommended for promotion. During a battle , he led a successful raid for British cannons while being fired on. Once they captured the cannons, his militia, the Hearts of Oak, became an artillery company.

On January 3, 1777, Alexander took part in the Battle of Princeton. George Washington rallied the American troops and led them in a successful charge against the British forces. After making a brief stand, the British fell back, some leaving Princeton and others taking up refuge in Nassau Hall. 

Alexander brought three cannons up and had them fire on the building. Then some Americans rushed to the front door and broke it down. The British quickly put a white flag outside one window. 194 British soldiers walked out of the building and laid down their weapons, ending the battle with an American victory.

In 1780 Alexander married Elizabeth Schuyler. Together they had eight children. Alexander eventually graduated from college in 1782. His education had been slowed down by the revolution. Later that same year he became licensed as a lawyer to argue cases before the Supreme Court of the State of New York. They appointed Alexander in July 1782 to the Congress of the Confederation as a New York representative.

Alexander quit Congress in 1783 when the British left New York. He practiced law there in partnership with Richard Harison. He specialized in defending Tories and British subjects. In 1784, he founded the Bank of New York, one of the oldest still-existing banks in America. Alexander helped restore and reopen King’s College as Columbia College. The school had been closed since 1776 and was damaged during the war. 

In 1786, at the Annapolis Convention Alexander drafted a resolution for the constitutional convention. In doing so he was one step closer to realizing his longtime desire to have a more effective, more financially independent federal government.

In 1787, while serving as a New York delegate, he met in Philadelphia with other delegates to discuss how to fix the Articles of Confederation, which were so weak that they could not keep  the Union together. During the meeting, Hamilton argued that the country would need plenty of money if it wanted to have a strong, central government that wouldn’t fall apart. 

While Alexander didn’t play a huge part in actually writing the Constitution, he is to thank for making it happen. Alexander wrote 51 of 85 essays that became known as the Federalist papers. It was these papers and Alexander’s powerful voice supporting the Constitution that helped ensure that the constitution was written in 1788.

When George Washington was elected President of the United States in 1789, he appointed Alexander as the first secretary of the treasury. The nation was facing great foreign and domestic debt because of expenses incurred during the American Revolution. Debt is when a country or individual owes someone else money.

In 1791  Alexander played a huge role in establishing the basis for the U.S. Mint. The Mint is where coins would be created for people to use. They created the Mint in Philadelphia in 1792. The Mint issued its first coins in 1795. There was a ten-dollar Gold Eagle coin, a silver dollar, and fractional money ranging from one-half to fifty cents. 

Alexander stepped down from his position as secretary of the treasury in 1795, leaving behind a far more secure U.S. economy to back a strengthened federal government. Having a strong financial system, which included its own coinage and enough money to spend was very important to the success of the new nation.

During the 1800 presidential elections, Thomas Jefferson, Democratic-Republican, and John Adams, a Federalist, were running for President after George Washington stepped down. . Presidents and vice presidents were voted for separately, and Aaron Burr, intended to be Jefferson’s vice president on the Democratic-Republican ticket, actually tied Thomas Jefferson for the presidency.

Alexander didn’t love either candidate, but went with Thomas Jefferson and this led to him beating Aaron Burr as the candidate for the Democratic-Republican Party. As a result, Aaron Burr would be vice president.

During his first term, Thomas Jefferson often left Aaron Burr out of discussions on party decisions. When Thomas Jefferson ran for re-election in 1804, he removed Aaron Burr from his ticket. Aaron Burr then decided to run for governor of New York but lost. 

Frustrated and feeling left out, Aaron Burr became very angry  when he read in a newspaper that Hamilton had called him “the most unfit and dangerous man of the community.” Aaron Burr was convinced Alexander had ruined yet another election for him and demanded an explanation. 

When Alexander refused, Aaron Burr, even angrier, challenged him to a duel. Alexander accepted, though not happy about it, because he believed that in doing so he would assure his “ability to be in the future more useful.”

Alexander met Aaron Burr at the duel which began at dawn on July 11, 1804, in New Jersey. When both men drew their guns and shot, Alexander was severely wounded, but his bullet missed Aaron Burr. 

Alexander, injured, was brought back to New York City, where he died the next day, on July 12, 1804. His grave is in the cemetery of Trinity Church in downtown Manhattan, New York City. His wife, Elizabeth, went on to survive him by 50 years and spent much of her time researching his life and writing about his legacy to share with others. She also founded an orphanage in memory of Alexander who was an orphan himself.

Alexander’s life didn’t start off easy at all. As an orphan in the West Indies, he often had to fend for himself. But instead of giving up, he found work and learned a new trade and did what he could to stay alive. He also found that by reading he could become smarter and figure out ways to solve his problems. Like Alexander, sometimes life throws challenges at us, and we can learn from his example by instead of giving up and shutting down, by stepping back and looking at our problem, learning something new, and then taking action to make our life better. 

Alexander was also always looking at ways he could improve the world around him. During the revolution he saw that America could become something better than it was. He fought in the war and then using everything he had read began to research ways to make the new country stronger. By reading we can better understand the world around us. Alexander wanted more than anything a better future for his children and the people of the new nation. Think about your community and what you might do to make it a better place.

Finally, Alexander will be remembered for the ideas he wrote in the Federalist Papers, which people all over the world have read in designing their own governments. If you get a chance, read some of the ideas he shared there. 

Thanks for listening to this episode about Alexander Hamilton and be sure to tune in next Monday for an episode about the creator of the musical, Lin Manuel Miranda.

The Malala Yousafzai Story for Kids

Imagine you live in a country far away.  It is a poor country with war and where girls are not allowed to go to school.  But your parents are kind and smart.  They think that boys and girls should both go to school and they want you to go to school too.  But you are a girl and it is not allowed.  What would you do?  

This was the experience of a young girl named Malala Yousafzai.  Malala was a girl from Pakistan.  She was only 11 years old when she started to get noticed for standing up for girls rights.  Malala was brave and strong and she stood up for what she believed and as a result, she ended up changing her country and the world. 

Malala was born on July 12, 1997 in Mingora, Swat Valley, Pakistan. For the first few years of her life, Malala’s hometown was a popular place for people to visit on vacation.  People from around the country would visit the town for summer festivals. 

Unfortunately, the town and the country started to change when a new government took control of the country.  A government is a group of people that make decisions about how a country will work and the rules that the people in the country will follow.  In Pakistan at that time that Malala was a young girl, a very strict government called the Taliban tried to take control.

Malala lived at home with her father and mother when she was a girl.  Her father’s name was Ziauddin Yousafzai and he was a schoolmaster at a local school and someone who believed strongly in his ideas that all children should go to school. Malala’s mother’s name was Toorpekai Yousafzai and she cared for Malala and her siblings.

The Taliban told people from Pakistan that they should not let girls go to school anymore.  It was an old fashioned idea that they wanted to bring back to the country.  However, Malala’s father disagreed with this idea.  He thought that all kids should get to go to school so that they could learn important life skills and take care of themselves and get good jobs.

Malala’s father ran one of the last girls schools that continued to run even though the Taliban government told all the girls schools to shut down. Instead of listening to the government’s orders, Malala’s dad kept letting girls to attend his school, including Malala.  He encouraged her to speak out about what the government was doing. Malala learned from a very early age that this was very important to girls and to her country.

Malala listened to her father and on September 1, 2008, when she was 11 years old, she gave her first speech at a community hall in Peshawar.  The title of her speech was, “How Dare the Taliban Take Away my Basic Right to Education?”  It was a speech that was about her opinion that the Taliban government should not close down girls schools or forbid them from attending.

It was a scary time in Pakistan for people to speak out about the government.  The Taliban government was very strict and very powerful.  Strict means to tell people that they have to behave a certain way and exactly what they have to do so they won’t get in trouble.  They scared Malala and others who spoke out about them and disagreed with what they were doing.

Because Malala did not want to get in trouble, she started writing using a fake name to write articles: Gul Makai.  She wrote articles on the internet for a famous news company from Britain called the BBC.  Malala wrote about what it was like to live with such a strict government and the articles were published for people from all around the world to see.  She thought she was safe because her identity was secret.  However someone found out who she was and told other people that it was Malala who was writing the articles.

The Taliban government was angry at Malala for saying bad things about them and the things that they believed and their rules.  They decided that they wanted to kill Malala and her family so that she could not speak out about them anymore. 

Even though Malala was frightened for safety and her family’s safety, she didn’t think think that Taliban government would hurt her because she was a kid and so she carried on with her speeches. One day when she was 15 years old and riding the bus home from school, some Taliban people got on the bus and shot her.  She was hurt very badly but she did not die.

Malala needed to go to a special hospital, so she got flown out of her country of Pakistan on an airplane to England. Once she was in England, she was safe from the Taliban government but she was still very hurt.  She had to have a number of surgeries at a hospital in order to get better.  She healed very well and within one year, she was able to start going to school again.  This time she stayed in England and went to school there.

Later that year, after Malala was feeling better, she was invited to speak at the United Nations in New York City, in America.  It was the first time that she spoke in public again since she was attacked.  Malala’s speech was on her 16th birthday and her topic was on the rights of every child to go to school.  She said in her speech that all governments around the world should make policies that allow girls to go to school.  Policies means a rule or law that allows people to do something.

In the speeches she gave after her attack, Malala talked about the courage that she had developed after her injury.  She said that the Taliban government “thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born.”

Malala received a lot of awards for her bravery.  When she was 15 she published a book about her life called, “I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World”.  One of the most important awards that she received was the United Nations Human Rights Prize, which is an important award that is only given every five years.

Another important award Malala received was the Nobel Peace Prize. She was 17 when she received it, and she was the youngest person to ever get the award. When Malala won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif said: Malala “is (the) pride of Pakistan, she has made her countrymen proud. Her achievement is unparalleled and unequaled. Girls and boys of the world should take lead from her struggle and commitment.” 

At the same time, former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Malala was “a brave and gentle advocate of peace who, through the simple act of going to school, became a global teacher.”  At Malala’s 2013 speech at the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that July 12th, which is Malala’s birthday,  would now be called ‘Malala Day’.  This was in honor of the work that Malala to ensure education for all children.

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Today Malala continues to do work to try to help children around the world.  She has worked hard to raise money so that other girls can go to school.  She is now going to university to study philosophy, politics and economics.  These are subjects that teach people how the world works and how to make it a better place through rules and policies.  Malala plans to continue to work to make the world a better place for all children.  She also wants to keep making sure that girls all around the world can go to school.

Is there something that you think would make the world a better place?  Is there something that you notice is unfair to yourself, your family or to others?  Think about the things that would be good to change in the world around you to make the world a fair and positive place for all people.  Perhaps there are people you know that don’t have a lot of money?  Or people that are not treated well?  If there are things in the world that you think should be changed, you can change them!

Malala was taught from a young age that there is power in words and in speaking up for what you believe in.  If there are things you can see that would make the world better, you can help by speaking to others about what you believe and by standing up for those who need help.  It is important that we all think about the things we can do to make the world a better place.  And is important that we have courage to speak out about the things that are unfair or unkind. 

Courage means to be brave even when you are scared.  Malala was brave by standing up for girls’ rights to go to school, even when the Taliban government told her not to.  She continued to speak out about this even if it meant that she may get hurt, because she knew it was an important topic.  Going to school is one of the most important ways that people can learn to create a good life for themselves and others.  So it is equally important that both boys and girls go to school.

We can all learn from Malala about the importance of education and about the importance of conviction, or staying true to your beliefs.  Even when it is difficult, it is important to stick with what you believe in and work towards creating a positive world for yourself and others.  

Malala’s bravery had many positive impacts.  One of the most important things that happened because of her bravery was the attention that her story brought to the issue about girls going to school in Pakistan.  As a result, Pakistan created its very first Right to Education Bill, which said that all children have the right to go to school. 

What would you like to do to change the world for the better?  What can you do to stand up for others and make the world a better place like Malala? 

History of Mahatma Gandhi for Kids

Have you heard ever heard of a country called India? India is between China and the Middle East and much of it is surrounded by the Indian Ocean. India is home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations and for many years was one of the richest countries in the world. Over one billion people live in India. It has more people than any other country in the world, second only to China. 

In the 1800s the British Empire ruled many countries of the world including America. During the American Revolution the Patriots fought off the British King and his soldiers and became their own free country. At the time of our story the British Empire was still in control of India. This is the story of how India came to be free and the man who helped make it happen.

In 1869 in the city of Porbander, India a boy named Mahandas Ghandi was born in a small home to a simple family. The Ghandis were good people. The father was a leader in the city and his mother was a very religious woman. She taught her children to pray and read scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita, the Vegas, and some texts from the Bible and Quaran. The Ghandis were Hindu, so they didn’t drinking wine or eat meat. Ghandi’s mother also taught the family to fast — which means going without food for a certain period of time. She believed it gave them strength and self control. 

When Mahandas was little he was very playful and sometimes liked to cause trouble. Often he would chase down dogs and twist their ears. He also loved to listen to classic Indian stories, such as the stories of Shravan and Harischandra, which were epic tales about virtue and adventure. These stories taught good principles and helped Mahandas want to be a good person.

At age nine Mahandas started school and there learned math, history, language and geography. He was just an okay student and pretty shy and had trouble speaking. This made him very nervous when he had to speak in front of his class, but he did like books and learning.

At this time in India people got married very young. Mahandas was 13 when he married a girl named Kasturba. When Kasturba was 17 they had their first baby, but sadly she didn’t live very long. This same year Mahandas also lost his father, so it was a very hard time for him. But later Mahandas and Kasturba had four more children, so it made them happy to be parents.

Next Ghandi decided to travel to London, the capital of the British Empire, to go to college to become a lawyer. A lawyer is someone who helps others work with the law, the rules that keep a country in order. Ghandi’s parents were worried while he was there he wouldn’t live his religion, that he would eat meat and drink alcohol and do other things they didn’t approve of. But when he left he promised them he would stay faithful no matter what. And Ghandi did live up to his word, he stayed strong in his Hindu religion while he was away from home. This is called commitment and dedication to something you believe in.

Ghandi learned a lot about the English people while he was in London. He had always been shy and at first school was difficult, but instead of giving up he joined a group that taught him how to speak louder and more clearly and with lots of practice he became a very good speaker.

After finishing college, Ghandi got a job working for a shipping company in South Africa. At this time the British Empire also ruled South Africa. In South Africa Ghandi was treated badly by the English because he was from India. Once when he was on a train they didn’t let him sit with other people. They picked him up and threw him off the train. Ghandi was so upset by this he refused to leave the train station until they let him on the next train. This is called a protest. Finally, they let Ghandi back on the train. Many times Ghandi was treated badly because he was from India. He started to think England shouldn’t be in control of India anymore. 

When Ghandi moved back to India and he was determined to do everything he could to make India a free country. He began speaking and writing about what the India people needed to do to become free. But Ghandi was a peaceful person and didn’t believe in hurting others to become free. Instead they would peacefully protest and use civil disobedience — which means finding other ways to make your point other than violence. 

One thing England did to control India was tax the things they bought, this meant charging extra for food and clothes and keeping the money. So instead of buying clothes and salt from England, Ghandi decided to make his own clothes and salt. He learned how to make his own clothes and started wearing them. Thousands of other India people started doing the same. This made the British upset, because they were losing money. To make his own salt, Ghandi began a journey to the ocean. He walked over 200 miles to make salt in the ocean. People all over India followed him and did the same. All across the world people saw what Ghandi and the India people were doing and sympathized with them. Ghandi was put in jail many times for his actions. He would go without eating until they would set him free. What Ghandi was doing was very difficult, but he was sacrificing his owns desires for the country and people he loved.

Sometimes the Indian people wanted to use guns and weapons to fight the British leaders, but Ghandi continually taught that this was the wrong way. He used scriptures of many different religions to show that peace was a better way. When his people did start to fight Ghandi would go without eating for many days until they stopped. The people often stopped because they loved Ghandi and didn’t want him to be hungry.

Eventually, England let India become free. The amazing part of this story is that it came about without a big war and lots of people dying. This was truly a miracle and Ghandi showed the world that freedom can come about through peaceful ways. The Indian people and Ghandi celebrated. They were so happy to be in control of their own country. The time after this was very challenging as they figured out how to be on their own, but it gave them a chance to make their own choices and be a free people.

Not long after India became free Ghandi passed away, but his mission was complete and the Indian people and people all across the world will remember him as someone who loved his people and gave his life for them.

In life it’s easy to focus on yourself and what makes you happy. Its natural for us to want to take care of ourselves, which is important to some degree. But giving of ourselves to help others is also very important. It’s important to share and to think about what makes others happy. Spend some time thinking about what makes others happy and then do something about it. Next time you have a treat think about how happy it will make others to taste it, too. If you are playing with a toy, think about how your brother or sister or friend might enjoy playing with it. 

Ghandi believed in being peaceful. Next time someone wants to fight with you or argue, think about a more peaceful way you can deal with the problem. You never know, in the end someone who you think is an enemy might become a friend.

Nancy Wake Story for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are a soldier flying in a plane high above the ocean. Outside you hear the plane’s propellers turning and strong winds rushing past the windows. It is the middle of the night and down below the ocean is dark and cold. Sitting around you are other soldiers, men and women with dark clothes and large backpacks. They look nervous and you feel nervous too. You check your gun and tighten a parachute which is also on your back. 

The year is 1944 and you are in the middle of World War 2. Nazi Germany has invaded France. France’s allies England and the United States and other countries are working to help France and many other countries be free again. If the battle can be won in France there might be a chance to beat the Nazis and make the world a safe place again. You look around at the other soldiers, but remember you and the others here are no ordinary soldiers. You are part of England’s Special Operations Executive, commandos which are a combination of a soldier and a spy. You have trained many months to be a commando and it’s finally your chance to help the people of France. 

“Everyone ready?” a voice calls from the back of the plane. You look out the window and see that you are above land now. This is France. You and the other soldiers stand up and walk toward the back of the plane. In the front you see one of the most famous commandos — a woman named Nancy Wake. The back doors to the plane open. You watch as Nancy walks to the back of the plane and jumps out into the cold night. Soon you jump out, too, and are are falling down, down toward the ground.  At the right moment you pull your parachute and are yanked up into the sky. You look across the French countryside and float downward until your boots hit the ground and you roll, then hurriedly wrap up your parachute. 

Nancy Wake and the other commandos are running low across a grassy field to the cover of trees. Someone whispers that a German patrol is nearby. You quietly hurry on until you are hidden deep in the woods. Everyone huddles together and pulls out their backpacks. You see that Nancy is safe and are glad to have such a brave woman leading your team. You know with her help you can accomplish your dangerous and very important mission. 

Nancy Wake was born in Wellington, New Zealand. A couple years later her family moved to Australia. There she went to school until the age of 16 when she left home and found a job as a nurse. Working as a nurse, she was able to save some money and with the help of an aunt, was bought a plane ticket to New York City. There she learned how to become a journalist. A journalist is someone who writes stories for the newspaper. To Nancy being a journalist was an adventure. She loved to travel and learn about new people and places. One of the places she visited was Austria. While she was in Austria a powerful leader named Adolf Hitler had become very powerful. Hitler’s country of Germany was nearby Austria. In Austria Hitler’s followers, the Nazis, were hurting people they did not like, such as the Jews. When Nancy saw how horribly the Nazis treated these people, she realized Hitler was very dangerous.

Nancy moved to Paris, France one of her favorite places in the world. She loved the city and the people and eventually married a Frenchman named Henri Edmond Fiocca. While Nancy was living in France, Hitler’s army invaded the country. Hitler wanted to control France, but Nancy did everything to try and stop him. She joined a group called The Resistance. She helped soldiers escape France and sent secret messages to help The Resistance. Nancy was very careful, so for a long time the Nazis didn’t know she was a spy. She was very sneaky and for this reason the Nazis called her “The White Mouse.” Her job was very dangerous, but Nancy knew that fighting against the invaders was the right thing to do, so she did it anyway. The Nazis wanted to catch Nancy so badly that they offered 5 million French dollars to anyone who would turn her in. 

Soon it was too dangerous for Nancy to stay in France, so she snuck out of the country, hiding in the back of a coal truck, just before the Nazis caught her. From France she went to Spain and then to England, which was a country safe from the Nazis. Nancy could have lived a safe life in England far from her enemies, but she knew she needed to keep fighting to keep the world free. In England Nancy joined England’s spy group called the Special Operations Executive. There Nancy trained to be a soldier and a spy, also known as a commando. She learned to shoot a gun, use a radio, and be sneaky, which she was already pretty good at. But Nancy worked very hard and tried to be very cheerful. When other soldiers were sad she made funny jokes and cheered them up. The other soldiers like to be around Nancy. 

Once Nancy and the other soldiers were trained, a plane flew them across the ocean to France where they jumped out and parachuted down to the ground. Many Nazis were in France so they were careful and spent much of the time in hiding. There Nancy and the other soldiers helped The Resistance. They gave them guns and other supplies, blew up bridges, recruited more people to the Resistance. Once they even attacked a Nazi base. Nancy and the other commandos weren’t afraid to complete dangerous missions to help free the people of France.

To keep in touch with England the commandos used radio and special codes. One night the codes were destroyed by the enemy and the next closest radio station was very far away. Many would have given up, but Nancy decided she could ride a bike to the other radio. So she jumped on her bike and rode almost 200 miles. She had to pass many Nazis along the way, so it was a very dangerous journey, but Nancy was brave and believed in her cause. After delivering the message to be sent, Nancy got back on her bike and rode all the way back to her team.

While Nancy and the other commandos were helping The Resistance, the Allied Armies fought Hitler’s army on the battlefield until chasing them out of France. Nancy was excited to see France free again and proud to have been one of many to make it happen. 

After the war Nancy received many medals for her bravery. Later she wrote a book about her life and adventures during the war and called it “The White Mouse.” Nancy moved into a hotel in France where the owners and others helped take care of her, because of all she had done to help their country. Nancy Wake’s bravery inspired many women and men for years to come. 

Like Nancy, you can do things even when you’re not sure how they’ll turn out. Sometimes we only want to do the things we know about — this is called staying inside our comfort zone. But it’s also good for us to get outside of our comfort zone and try new things like Nancy did. We can stand up for what we believe even when it might be scary. If you see someone picking on someone else, you can tell them this is wrong and stand up for them. You might wonder if you can be as brave as Nancy, but remember she was once a child just like you. 

History of Benjamin Franklin for Kids

Have you heard of a Founding Father before? A Founding Father is someone who helped start the United States of America. Benjamin Franklin was a Founding Father. Some have also called him the First American, because he had so many of the traits that would become known as American, such as hard work and independence. Independence is when you do something for yourself. 

Ben Franklin was born in Boston Massachusetts to a very large family. He had 17 brothers and sisters! His family didn’t have very much money so he only went to school for 2 years. But he did spend a lot of time reading on his own. He also learned to write and enjoyed doing it.

When he was young he worked for his older brother who was a printer. A printer would print newspapers and books for other people. Printing was important, because it was the best way to share an idea at that time. Printers would use little metal letters and build entire pages of words and sentences, then use black ink to make copies of the metal letters. Because Ben was working for his older brother he was called an “apprentice.” An apprentice is someone who is learning to become a master at a certain skill like printing. 

While Ben was working as a printer he also liked to write for the newspaper. He would use a fake name Silence Dogood to write in the newspaper. He pretended to be an old lady and wrote funny jokes. Many people in the town thought this was very funny and didn’t know it was Ben writing the jokes. 

After a few years Ben left his brother’s shop and started working for a new printer. His job was to set the metal letters in the big printing machine. He was also a clerk, a shopkeeper and a bookkeeper. He liked to stay busy and to learn all he could while he was working.

Around this time, when he was 20 years old, Ben formed a group including other Americans who also liked to read. Books cost a lot of money to buy, and there were no libraries, so Ben and his friends started their own library. They shared the books they read and met together to talk about what they read. Later in his life Ben would help start some of the first libraries in America because he knew reading and learning were so important.

After working for other printers for many years, Ben started his own printing shop. He wrote about his own ideas and used parts of the paper to talk about good morals. Morals are the things that are good to do in life — like being honest, being kind, not stealing and working hard. Ben made lists of what he wanted to do better each day then at the end of the day checked the boxes on what he did good at and made note of what he needed to do better. He believed improving each day was very important.

Ben was very interested in science and invention. He studied electricity. At the time no one had electricity, which means they had no lights or electronics like we do today. Ben saw lightning during a storm and guessed that it must be electricity. Sometimes when lightning hit tall buildings it started fires. Ben had the idea to put a metal pole on the top of buildings, so when the lightning struck the pole it would go into the ground instead of start fires. This invention was called a lightning rod. Many people think that Ben used a kite to discover lightning was electricity, but he really just wrote about the idea and someone else tried it.

Ben also invented a certain type of eye glasses called bifocals, which allowed someone to see differently depending on the part of the glasses they were looking through.

Ben also liked to play chess. He also created the first Fire Department and helped start some of the first universities in the United States.

Because of his newspapers and his inventions and other achievements Ben Franklin became very well known in America and across the ocean in Europe. When many Americans disagreed with England about taxes, Ben was on the side of the Americans who wanted change. He wrote about his ideas and even helped Thomas Jefferson write the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence was a paper they wrote to tell England they wanted to be their own country and to be free.

A war began between America and England, so Ben took a ship across the ocean to ask for France’s help. The French people loved Ben Franklin. He liked to wear a fur hat and talk about science and his inventions. They thought he was interesting and fun to talk to. France ended up helping America fight and later win the war against England. 

In his new country, Ben helped put together the first Constitution. The Constitution was a list of laws to help the country stay together and work well. To the end of his life Ben did all he could to help make America a strong country. 

Earlier we talked about some of the morals, good things we should do, that Ben wrote about in his paper. Ben wasn’t a perfect person, like all of us, but he wanted to do good things. 

He wrote about temperance. Temperance is not doing too much of something such as eating. We need good food for our bodies, but too much of it isn’t always a good thing. We can usually tell by how our stomachs feel when we are eating.

He also taught about silence. Sometimes it’s good to speak up, but other times it’s better to listen and think about what we should say. If we don’t think before we speak, we often say things we don’t really mean.

Order means to think about what we are doing and have a plan. We shouldn’t spend all our time doing the same thing, but giving the right amount of time to each good thing.

Frugality means to be careful with the money that you have. It’s easy to want to spend all of your money, but it’s better to spend money on what you need and to save some. It’s ok to spend some of your money on fun things, but not all of it.

Industry means to stay busy doing useful things. Each day we can make a plan of what we want to do and then get to work. Having fun is good in its own time, but we should also spend time learning, helping others, and getting chores and other things done.

Justice means treating others well and doing our best to make things fair.

Cleanliness means we should take care of our bodies by keeping them cleaning, bathing each day, and brushing our teeth.

Like Ben, we can do our best to live by these teachings each day. You could even keep track of your goals like Ben did in his journals and checklists. You can also read and learn and come up with new ideas that will help other people like Ben’s lightning rod. You can also be courageous and stand up for good things like Ben did during the Revolution. 

History of the Navy SEALs for Kids

In the 1960s, during the Vietnam War, the United States military began to train special soldiers who could move about secretly in small teams and complete special missions. This was the beginning of the Navy SEALs. 

Any man or woman who wants to become a Navy must first join the Navy. Then they must pass tests to be sure they are ready for BUD/S training. BUD/S Training is a very difficult camp where leaders decide who is ready to be a Navy SEAL. There they run through wet sand with all their clothes on, crawl through deep mud, and carry heavy rubber boats. They do lots of situps and pushups and plenty of running. Most days they get very little sleep and have to swim far out in the ocean, and hold their breath underwater for a very long time. Not only do their bodies have to be strong, but their minds as well. They have to be able to keep going and going even when their body and mind want to give up. People who want to become Navy SEALs spend many years training before they even go to BUD/S Training. Because it is so hard many aren’t able to finish. This doesn’t mean they are weak, it is just a very great challenge to become a Navy SEAL.

At the end of boot camp, SEALs start other training, such as learning how to scuba dive under the water and how to parachute out of very high airplanes. They also learn how to shoot guns and set off bombs. The word SEAL is the words “sea”, “air”, and “land” all together. This means a SEAL needs to be able to move across sea, air and land to accomplish their special missions.

SEAL training can last up to a year, but even when they are done they keep practicing and practicing. A Navy SEAL is never fully done learning and improving.

At the end of their first training, the trainees are given a gold badge that has an eagle on it, which they can pin to their Navy uniform. It is a very exciting day, because they have worked so hard and so long to reach their goal.

Once a Navy SEAL completes their training they are assigned to a team. That team may live anywhere in the world, because their mission may take place anywhere in the world; and they need to be close and ready when they are needed. 

When a mission takes place the Navy SEALs may arrive there by airplane, where they parachute down, or it might be by boat or helicopter or even by submarine if they are scuba swimming to their mission. They wear camouflage clothes depending on where the missions is, since it may be in the desert or the jungle or in a city.

The Navy SEALs have assisted in many wars in the past and are active today in places like the Middle East. Their mission might be to capture an enemy or to rescue someone who has been kidnapped. SEALs are very fast and skilled at what they do and can get in and out of places very fast. During one mission their job was to stop modern day pirates who had captured a big ship and its crew. For another mission they rescued soldiers who had been captured by the enemy.

Often Navy SEALs have to sacrifice their own lives when they go on these dangerous missions. In 2005 during the Afghanistan War, a 4-man team of SEALs landed by helicopter in an enemy area. Their job was to capture a dangerous Taliban leader. The members of this team were Lieutenant Michael Murphy and Petty Officers Marcus Luttrell, Danny Dietz and Matt Axelson. 

While sneaking through enemy territory, the team ran into a boy and his father herding goats. The team decided to let them live and after they let them go, the father alerted the enemy and soon the team was being attacked Marcus from all sides. The SEALs fought for a very long time and tried to survive, but soon only Marcus Luttrell was left alive. 

Marcus was strong and kept fighting and running until he was taken in by a friendly villager who lived nearby. Sometimes it’s not easy to know who is a friend or enemy in war, but this family took care of Marcus until a Navy helicopter came and took him away. After arriving home, Marcus wrote a book about the battle of him and his team and called it “Lone Survivor.” 

Navy SEALs are in many ways ordinary people who want to make a change in the world and serve their country. Their job is never easy, but they practice long and hard to be very good at what they do. 

Spend some time thinking about what you can do to improve yourself like a Navy SEAL. You don’t have to become a Navy SEAL to make yourself strong or become better at something. It might just be playing outside instead of watching TV, or riding your bike, or swimming, or doing something kind for someone else. You can have the spirit of a Navy SEAL, which is to accomplish great things even when they take time, hard work and practice.  

The Sylvester Stallone “Rocky Story” for Kids

On July 6, 1946 a boy named Sylvester was born. When it was time for his mother to give birth Sylvester’s body was not coming out easily. In order for him to survive they used special tools, which although they saved his life, caused part of his lip and face not to work right. Because of this he always had a funny smile and even talked funny. 

Sylvester grew up in the big city of New York. Growing up wasn’t easy there. His parents didn’t get along and they had to move many times. At one point he had to live with different families until he was able to move back with his father. With all of this going on in his life, Sylvester had a tough time in school and didn’t always do very well. 

But Sylvester loved going to the movies. He in the theater and stared up at the gigantic screen as larger than life heroes did amazing things. He saw how strong and fast and courageous they were and wanted to be just like them. The problem was Sylvester realized he didn’t look like those heroes. He was short and small and got teased for his smile. But this didn’t stop Sylvester. He began to exercise and do pushups and run, and do anything to shape himself into the heroes he saw in the movies. 

As Sylvester got older his love of movies made him want to become an actor, so he went to a school for actors. He tried his very best there until it was time to be done and look for a job. But finding an acting  job isn’t easy. Sylvester did all kinds of odd jobs on the side. He even cleaned lion cages at the zoo! But most of the time he didn’t have any money and it was very hard to get by. So he could pay for food, Sylvester had to sell his favorite dog. He was very sad about this. But Sylvester was determined to become an actor so he sacrificed things for it.

One day Sylvester saw a boxing match on TV. The boxers were Muhammed Ali and Chuck Wepner. Even though Chuck was getting beat up pretty badly, he kept standing up and fighting back. Sylvester had an idea, so he rushed home and started writing. He wrote all night and all day until the story was done. Next, he took his story to the movie companies and they loved the boxer story. They said they would pay him $125,000 for the story. Sylvester said he would sell it, but on one condition — that he would also be the star in the movie. The directors laughed at this. They thought Sylvester looked a little funny and talked funny. They kept offering Sylvester more money for the story, but he demanded that he be the star. He was persistent and believed in himself. 

Finally, the movie directors said he could be the star, but they didn’t pay him as much for the story. But Sylvester didn’t care because he believed he could be the star. And one of the first things he did with the money was bought his old dog back! 

When the movie was finished it was about a small boxer named Rocky who nobody knew. But the boxer exercised and practiced and worked very hard until in a big boxing match he beat one of the best boxers in the world! People loved the movie named Rocky! It even won many awards and became one of the most popular movies of all time. Sylvester went from being an unknown actor to starring in many big movies. He always worked hard playing his parts, and exercised and stayed strong and fast. Most of the time he wanted to do his own stunts, even though it was dangerous. Today Sylvester Stallone is known as one of the greatest action movie stars of all time. 

Later in his life Sylvester tried to do good things with the money he earned from his movies. They held an auction to sell the boxing gloves and other items from his Rocky movie and made $3 million dollars which they gave to those in need.

Remember that becoming good at something requires a lot of practice and persistence. Persistence is when you keep trying and trying even when things aren’t working out. Sylvester had a dream and stuck with it even when it wasn’t working out. Sometimes dreams take time and courage and patience. Like the boxer Rocky we can keep getting back up and trying even when difficult things in life knock us down.

The Vikings and Leif Erikson

Around 1,200 years ago many tribes lived in the Scandinavian region of Europe. Scandinavia is now made up of countries such as Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Greenland. The people living there became known as Norsemen or “North-men” and were also called “Vikings.” Because it was so far north, the region they lived in was often very cold, so they were very tough and hardy people. They had to survive the freezing cold winters. To do this they hunted animals and wore their furs. They built long, narrow houses built out of wood, and coated them in earth and grass with thatched roofs. Some of these “long houses” were up to 250 feet long and large families lived in them together. For example if you were a viking you might live in the same house not only with your family but your cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents. 

At night families gathered around a big fireplace called a “hearth”, and told stories about their gods such as Odin, the leader of Asgard and his wife Frigg. Their children were Balder, Loki and Thor. Loki was a trickster and often his jokes went too far and he was punished for them. Thor was the god of thunder and fought giants in the sky with his powerful hammer, mjolnir. When he fought these battles it caused lightning and thunder in the sky. Freya was the goddess of love, beauty and war. Each god had their own story of adventure that families shared from generation to generation. The Vikings also sang, danced and played board games around the fire to get them through the long, dark winters.

During the warmer months, the Vikings farmed the land and tended sheep and other animals. But they also became very good sailors and navigators. They learned how to follow the sun and stars and color of the ocean and movement of sea life to know their position in the ocean. Their long ships were made of strong wood and could sail in deep oceans or shallow streams. They used the ocean to discover new lands and often sailed very far and wide to trade goods such as furs, timber and ivory. 

Some groups of Vikings decided that rather than trading they would steal from other tribes. They were known for finding a village along the ocean, running the people out and taking all of their food and valuables, similar to pirates. Vikings were skilled warriors. In battle they used large, round shields, spears, and axes to fight their enemies. One of their best tactics involved interlocking their shields to create a “shield wall.” Because of their skills in battle, the Vikings were able to conquer land very far into Europe.

They became feared far and wide. While not all vikings were aggressive and behaved as pirates, stories were told about them through the ages and one reason most people today assume that all Vikings behaved like pirates.  

Many vikings chose to trade with other tribes and often settled the new lands when the climate and soil was right for farming. They settled new places like Iceland and Greenland. During the Viking Age, many of the tribes moved all the way into England and modern day Russia. 

One of the norsemen who settled Greenland was named Erik the Red. He got his name from his red hair and red beard and his hot temper. Erik’s wife was name JODE-hiled and they had three sons: Thorvald, Leif and Thorstein, and a sister named Freydis. Greenland was extremely cold and not good for farming. But Erik the Red and his family were able to hunt animals such as reindeer and do some basic farming to survive. The work of clearing the land of trees and farming was very hard, but these hardships are what made Erik the Red and his family strong. 

Eventually, Erik and his people found a better place to live in Greenland where Erik’s son Leif grew up. His full name was Leif Erikson, since he was Eric’s son. Because Erik the Red was so busy as chief, Leif was raised by a friend of their family named Tyrkir. Tyrkir taught Leif how to hunt with a bow, trap animals to eat, and fish with a hook and net. He also taught Leif how to sail a boat and navigate at sea. These were all very important skills as a Viking.

Over time and with lots of practice, Leif learned all of the skills he needed to survive on his own and eventually left his family to make a life for himself. One of the first things he did was sail to the islands off the coast of Scotland where he met a woman named Thorgunna. They were married and had a son named Thorgils. 

Like all great vikings and his father, Leif wanted to explore the world outside of his homeland and discover new lands. Stories had been told about a land west across the ocean from Greenland and Europe. Leif was curious whether he and his people could live there, so he made up his mind to venture out and see for himself. Leif gathered a crew of 34 vikings and set off across the ocean on their sturdy long boats. After many days of sailing across the Atlantic Ocean they spotted land! They rowed ashore but the land was flat and rocky and not good for farming. This place wouldn’t be good for a settlement, but Leif had discovered North America! This is the first time Europeans reached the New World in what is now known as Canada, a few hundred years before Christopher Columbus! 

Leif and his crew decided to continue to sail south and eventually found a land that was wooded and green. He named this place Markland, but decided to keep on going, looking for better land. They sailed down a river and to a lake with fresh water and that was full of fish. They anchored their boats, rowed ashore, and set up camp so they could learn more about this new place. One day they hiked further inland and found a vineyard and grapes. For this reason, Leif decided to name the new land Vineland (veen-land), and what is now modern day Canada. After this, Leif and his crew packed up and sailed back to Greenland to let his people know about the new land they had discovered. 

Not long afterward, Leif’s father, Erik the Red, passed away and Leif became the new chief. He ruled his people for 20 years. Interestingly, he never returned to Vineland. But his brother Thorvald Erickson and his sisters did. They sailed to Vineland, picked more grapes and cut down trees to take home. They explored further down the coast, but to their surprise other people were already living there! These native people had likely lived in the New World for thousands of years. Instead of trying to make friends or communicate with these people, who they called the Skraelings, Thorvald and the other Vikings attacked them. The Skraelings who survived the attack ran back to their village and soon returned with other warriors. When Thorvald and the Vikings saw the Skraelings caming after them they turned and ran. The Skraelings fired their bows and Thorvald was hit with an arrow and did not survive. The Vikings stayed in Vineland two more seasons and buried Thorvald there, but eventually returned to Greenland. 

Later, Thorvald’s brother, Thorstein returned to Vineland and later their sister, Freydis. At one point they brought 130 Vikings with them and again tried to settle the land in North America. But the Native American people who already lived there outnumbered them and did not want them there. They often attacked the Vikings. The Vikings knew that they were outnumbered and that they would have to leave. Staying would be too dangerous. Later, Vikings would occasionally return to Vineland to cut down trees for building in Greenland, but they would never stay permanently. 

Later, Leif Erickson would go down in history as the first explorer to reach the New World, 400 years before Christopher Columbus. In the United States in 1964 October 9 officially became Leif Erickson Day. Down through history, the vikings are often associated with their pirate-like attacks, but many of these norToday, many people across the world trace their roots back to Scandinavia, the land of the Vikings. Many of these descendants now live in the American Midwest. You may have heard about a football team, the Minnesota Vikings, who are named after their ancestors. 

Bethany Hamilton Story for Kids

In 2005, a surfer named Bethany Hamilton won the National Scholastic Surfing Association National competition. Fifteen-year-old Bethany absolutely destroyed the competition in the Explorer Women’s final. She accepted her award at the competition dinner to 500 people standing and clapping for her. Bethany thanked God and her coach, Ben Aipa, for helping her win.  

After winning third-place in the Open Women’s surfing competition in 2003, the world knew it was only a matter of time until this special girl achieved Nationals gold. What they didn’t know was the amazing journey that Bethany would take on her way to finally winning gold.

Bethany Meilani Hamilton was born on February 8, 1990, in Hawaii. She began surfing at the age of 8 and gained her first sponsorship by age 9. Bethany was home-schooled from 6th grade through high school by her mother, who was a stay-at-home mom. Her father worked as a server at a town cafe.

In October 2003, after having placed 3rd in the Open Women’s division earlier that year, Bethany’s life changed forever. Bethany went for a morning surf with her best friend Alana, Alana’s father, and her brother. There she was attacked by a shark and lost her left arm just below the shoulder. 

Her friends helped paddle her back to shore. Then Alana’s father made a tourniquet out of a rash guard and wrapped it around the bottom of her arm. She was rushed to the hospital and a doctor living in a hotel nearby raced to the rescue. 

During later interviews, she said that she felt normal when she was bitten and felt very little pain from the bite at the moment of the attack, but felt it go numb on the way to the hospital and she ultimately lost her entire arm during the surgery that saved her life.

Despite what happened, Hamilton was determined to start surfing again. One month after the attack, she got back on her board. First, she used a custom-made board that was longer and slightly thicker than standard and had a handle for her right arm, making it easier to paddle. She learned to kick more to make up for the loss of her left arm. 

After teaching herself to surf with one arm, she returned to surfing on November 26, 2003, just 26 days after the attack. She entered her first major competition on January 10, 2004. She now uses normal short boards to compete.  

The shark-bitten surfboard that Hamilton was riding during the attack, as well as the bathing suit she was wearing at the time, are on display at the California Surf Museum in Oceanside, California.

Even though she lost her arm, Bethany has had an impressive career with numerous 1st place awards. But more important than the medals is her story of overcoming such tragedy where many would have given up.

Bethany’s story has been turned into multiple books, including a few written by her. She has appeared on many tv shows, magazine articles and in 2004 was named the Best Comeback Athlete and also received the Courage Teen Choice award.  

The last two books written by Bethany were based around the theme of being unstoppable. One of her books is named “Be Unstoppable: The Art of Never Giving Up” and has inspired readers to be bold, enjoy life, and trust God each day. Bethany is very devout in her religious beliefs and is always quick to share them.

Bethany married her then-boyfriend Adam in 2013 and together they have three sons, Tobias, Wesley, and Micah. The family still lives in Hawaii where they surf and spend time together. Her kids all know about the attack in 2003 but she has used this as an important lesson for them on staying strong.

Bethany has always given her time and money to help others, including her own foundation, Friends of Bethany. Her foundation reaches out to amputees and youth, encouraging them to overcome difficulties by offering hope and encouraging them to have faith. 

Within the Friends of Bethany Foundation there are four different programs:

  1. Beautifully Flawed: retreat designed for young women ages 14–25 who have experienced traumatic limb loss.
  2. Shine Forth: Night filled with stories and inspiration to overcome, free community event to gather together and share comeback stories.
  3. Anchored in Love: Conference for girls and young women ages 12 and up, a one-day event designed to help girls and young women discover their true beauty, purpose, and worth. 
  4. The Forge: Men’s retreat where young male amputees come and focus on faith, fitness, and healthy living.

Bethany has done so many amazing things in her career as a surfer despite the adversity she had to overcome. She never stopped, she never gave up, and she never stayed scared. She knew that she had to start surfing again right away because she wasn’t going to let the shark attack take anything else away from her.

She’s used her position as a professional athlete to promote living a fit and healthy lifestyle and to inspire other young athletes and amputees that anything was possible for them in life if they just didn’t stop.

Everyone in life will face many setbacks, but it is how we react to these setbacks that define us. Do we stop moving or do we remain unstoppable? We all need to be more like Bethany, we need to be strong and we need not let fear define who we are or we can become.    

Thanks for listening to this episode about Bethany Hamilton and be sure to tune in for a new episode next Monday.