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.

Tim Berners-Lee and the Invention of the Internet for Kids

How are you listening to this podcast today? On a computer, a cell phone, or a smart home device like Alexa? Whatever device you’re using, it connects to the internet. The internet is central to so many things we do today, but have you ever wondered what exactly it is, or how it got to be what it is today? In this episode, you’re going to find out!

Our story begins in 1955 in London England with the birth of Tim Berners-Lee. Both of Tim’s parents were scientists who helped build one of the first computers in the 1950s, the Ferranti Mark 1. Tim enjoyed playing with model railroads as a child, and he learned a lot about electronics from this hobby. He went on to study physics at the University of Oxford in England, where he continued to tinker with electronics in his spare time, building a computer inside an old TV. He graduated with a degree in physics. 

Tim worked as a programmer for many years after graduating, and learned about many technologies along the way. Eventually, he got a job working at CERN, a European nuclear research agency. At CERN, Tim’s first job was to help people communicate over computer networks and use data stored on them in order to do their jobs. But Tim was frustrated to find that all these computers worked in different ways, so it was difficult to get them to talk to one another. Tim wanted to make it easier for people to communicate and work together using these computer networks. 

In the early 1990s, Tim Berners-Lee helped to invent not one, not two, but three key, related technologies that helped the internet become more widely available. He developed the “www” or World Wide Web system (you may have noticed this in website addresses); HTML, or HyperText Markup Language; and the first web browser. 

We’ll talk about each of these in more detail later, but before that, I should go over a few basic things about how the internet works. The internet actually existed before Tim Berners-Lee’s contributions. It’s just a name for a system of computers that are connected to each other — a network. Computers on a network can send and receive messages to and from other computers on the network, or to other networks There are two main types of computers that you need to know about to understand the internet: servers and clients. Servers store information like email or documents, and send or “serve” that information to clients when they request it. Clients are the computers that you and I use to go online. 

The details of this can get a little confusing, but Tim Berners Lee himself actually has a good way of describing the process. He compares it to a mail system. Say you drop a letter in the mailbox. Your letter is like the information you’re sending over the internet. The workers in the post office, similar to a server, look at the address on the letter, and decide where to send it next. That letter might go through a half dozen or more post offices on its way to your house, getting a little closer to you with each one. Eventually, the mail carrier drops it in your mailbox, which is like the client computer.  Unlike with paper mail, all this happens in the blink of an eye on the internet, although in the early days, it could take a bit longer.

Actually, in the early days of the internet, there were no webpages at all. The internet was mostly a tool for scientists to communicate with each other, and it was entirely text-based – no photographs, videos, or music. There were various computer networks in the early days. One of the first was called Arpanet, and it was created by the United States government. It had just four computers on it at first, all of them at universities or government research facilities.  These researchers used very basic tools like File Transfer Protocol to share documents, or simple email systems. 

Internet access expanded to the general public in the 1980s, but it was still far from the internet we know today. There were no viral tik tok dances, cat memes or Wikipedia. It was still used as a communication tool for people with technical knowledge. The systems they used were mostly text-based, meaning they had no graphics.

But Tim Berners-Lee and his three inventions would change everything. The early 1990s were a turning point in the development of the internet, the time when the web really began to look something like what we know today. 

Tim developed the first invention with his colleague at CERN, Robert Cailliau. The World Wide Web, or WWW, is the system used by servers — those computers where your websites are stored — to find documents on the internet. What I’m calling a “document” in this case might be a webpage, a photo, or a music or video file. In the WWW system, every document on the web has a Universal Resource Locator, or URL. That may sound like fancy techno-babble, but I’m sure you’ve seen one. It’s a web address, like www.bedtimehistorystories.com. These addresses can be used by anyone to link to any page on the internet, and they’re usually pretty easy to remember. The very first world wide web server was actually Tim’s work computer at CERN!

HTML is short for HyperText Markup Language, and it’s a computer language used to encode or “mark-up” documents so that a web browser can read and display them in a way that is easy for people to read and understand. HTML tags mark where specific elements of a document are. There are HTML tags for paragraphs, images, links, and most of the other things you would see on a webpage.  

Of course, in order to be useful for displaying web pages, HTML needed a program designed to read and display it. Tim also invented the first program to read and display HTML documents, which he called a browser. Today, there are dozens of browsers, like Chrome, Edge, and Safari, but the first one was called World Wide Web. Since CERN was not interested in paying people to develop web browsers beyond this, Tim encouraged the growing online community of web developers to volunteer their time to create a better browser. In 1993, the Mosaic browser was released by a team at the University of Illinois. Since then, this model of using volunteers from across the world has helped create many important web technologies and products. 

Finally, the managers at CERN made a decision that turned out to be very important for the future of the web: They decided to make Tim’s inventions open standards, meaning anyone could use them. This meant that people around the world could set up their own web servers and create pages using HTML, and they could link to any other webpage on the internet. Likewise, anyone in the world who had a computer and an internet connection could use a browser to view those pages. You didn’t have to be a computer scientist, or an academic, or even know what a server is. As a result, today there are:

  • Almost 2 billion websites on the internet
  • Almost 5 billion internet users
  • Around 7 billion Google searches per day
  • Around 7 billion YouTube videos viewed per day and…
  • Thousands of podcasts you can listen to at any time!

Tim Berners Lee saw a system–the early internet–that had a lot of potential, and came up with ways to improve it and make it vastly more useful for people all over the world. He has won many awards for his achievements: he was knighted by the queen of England in 2013, and won a prestigious computing prize called the Turing Award. He was the key force behind the modern internet, but he also made sure that anyone with the right skills could improve the systems he developed, which is what allowed the world wide web to explode in popularity and accessibility. He has continued to work throughout his life to keep the internet a free and open system that anyone can access.

Tim is a great example of someone who was curious and used his skills to design things that would be useful to other people. He liked to tinker, which means try out new things and play around with them, until they become a useful invention. And when he did design something that was useful he didn’t keep it to himself. He found a way that people all over the world could benefit from it. Considering others is important to do in all of our actions.

We hope you enjoyed this episode about the Invention of the Internet and Tim Berners Lee and be sure to tune in next Monday for a new episode.

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. 

Fred Rogers Story for Kids

Can you hear that?

“Ding, ding.”

It’s the Neighborhood Trolley making its way back from King Friday’s castle to the Neighborhood Of Make Believe. It’s here to deliver a message to all of you about the man known as Mr. Rogers.

Fred McFeely Rogers was born on March 20, 1928, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. His father’s name was James and his mother Nancy. His love of music started early in life as he began to play the piano at the age of five. 

Before we go any further, I know that you’re all dying to know about Fred’s middle name, McFeely. Yes, that is actually his middle name. McFeely was his grandfather’s last name. Fred Brooks McFeely.  Fred’s grandfather was a local entrepreneur and the man that they named Fred.

Now that we have that interesting fact out of the way, let’s learn some more about Mr. Rogers.

Childhood wasn’t the easiest for the man who would become known as one of the nicest, happiest men on TV. He was very shy and overweight. He spent a lot of time stuck at home suffering from bouts of asthma.

Fred was picked on a lot as a child because of his weight. Some kids even called him “Fat Freddy”. Fred had a very lonely childhood which forced him to make up imaginary friends. He spent a lot of time playing alone with his toys in his bedroom, making up imaginary worlds for them to explore.

In High School, Fred finally overcame his shyness and made a couple of good friends. Fred served as president of the student council. He was also a member of the National Honor Society and editor-in-chief of the school yearbook. 

Fred got into television because he hated the shows that were on TV. In an interview, he said, “I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there’s some way of 

using this fabulous instrument to nurture those who would watch and listen”. His first job in the TV business was working for NBC in New York as a floor director on several shows.

Fred worked for NBC until 1963 when he moved back to Pitsburg. He took a job as a program developer at the public television station WQED. Together with Josie Carey, he developed a children’s show called The Children’s Corner. While Josie was the host of the show, Fred made puppets, characters, and music for the show. Many of the puppets and characters that he developed for The Children’s Corner were used on his later shows. 

It was while working on The Children’s Corner in 1963 that Fred became an ordained minister. Rather than becoming a pastor, he turned his focus to ministering to children and their families through television. He would appear before church officials regularly to keep up his ordination.  

It was during this time that he met Margaret McFarland. Margaret became his key advisor, collaborator, and child-education guru. Most of Fred’s appreciation for children came from his work with Margaret. Margaret helpd with Mr. Rogers Neighborhood scripts and songs for 30 years.  

The original Mr. Rogers show ran from 1963 to 1967 on the CBC in Toronto. It was a black and white 15 minute long show and was the first time that Fred appeared on TV as Mr. Rogers. In 1967 Fred headed back home to Pittsburg with his wife and two young sons.

In 1968 the real magic happened. Fred began filming the show Mister Rogers Neighborhood. Mr. Rogers filmed 895 magical episodes of the show between 1968 and 2001.

Oh, can’t you hear it? I hear it. 

The shows about to start.

[Verse 1]

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood

A beautiful day for a neighbor

Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?

[Verse 2]

It’s a neighborly day in this beautywood

A neighborly day for a beauty

Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?

[Bridge]

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you

I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you

[Verse 3]

So let’s make the most of this beautiful day

Since we’re together, we might as well say

Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?

Won’t you be my neighbor?

Won’t you please

Won’t you please

Please, won’t you be my neighbor?

Every show started this same way. Mr. Rogers would sing this song, greeting everyone while changing from his jacket to a cardigan sweater and his dress shoes to sneakers. He was now ready for the show’s adventures to begin.

He always welcomed everyone with open arms into his world. He would share stories of make-believe. He took everyone on amazing journeys outside his home to see how different things worked in the world. But most of all, he taught many lessons about life.

The show ran the same way for the entire time it was on the air. Mr. Rogers would introduce the show’s theme. Then he would leave his home to visit another location. He would let everyone see how different things were made or built.

Once he finished his visit, Mr. Rogers left and returned home. Now we knew it was now time to visit the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Mr. Rogers headed to the window seat by the trolley track and tells the viewers about the story they were about to see as the Trolley comes out. The camera follows it down a tunnel in the back wall of the house as it enters the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Each story and lesson would take place over a week’s worth of episodes. Each involved puppet and human characters. The end of the visit occurs when the Trolley returns to the same tunnel from which it emerged, reappearing in Mr. Rogers’ home. Mr. Rogers always had the last talk with the viewers before the ending of the episode.

Unlike the show Sesame Street, which focused on teaching kids numbers and letters, Mr. Rogers’ show focused on often things like developing feelings and having good morals. There was no other show quite like it. 

Mr. Rogers Neighborhood stopped filming for 4 years between 1975 and 1979. Mr. Rogers focused on adult programming to the shock of many of his coworkers. When he returned to making the show in 1979 until it ended in 2001 the show was better than ever.  

In 1969 Fred went before the U.S. Senate to help get more money for PBS. Fred wasn’t well known but he had the ability to be very convincing. He was able to connect emotionally with everyone he spoke to. His words helped get money for the television station for many years afterward. It was also considered some of the most powerful words spoken before Congress. In 1970, President Nixon appointed Rogers as chair of the White House Conference on Children and Youth.

Not bad for a guy who was so shy as a child that he only played with toys! Now he was using his talents to not only help children everywhere but also to make sure the TV station, PBS, had enough money to keep making Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for years to come. 

Over the years, Mr. Rogers did many interviews and over 150 speeches to college graduates. His speeches were all about children, television, education, his views on making the world a better place, and how he never wanted to stop learning.

Though Mr. Rogers always spoke with a soft voice, everyone always listened to what he had to say. During some speeches, he would ask the audience to be silent. He asked them to think about someone in their lives who helped them. This is something Fred always encouraged. He always appreciated others for all they have done. 

Mr. Rogers won a Lifetime Achievement, Emmy award, in 1997. He was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999.

Have you heard of the show Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. This kid’s TV show is based on characters from Mister Roger’s Neighborhood.

We can all learn some very important lessons from Mr. Rogers. Even though he started out shy and unhappy as a child, he didn’t let that stop him from having an enormous impact on the world around him. He focused his life on helping children grow and learn to be the best they could be. He taught kindness, compassion, and caring to everyone he ever met.

Mr. Rogers treated everyone like they were his friend and neighbor and only asked the same in return. The world would be a much better place if more people had this same attitude.

Each day please be kind to a stranger and do something nice for your friends and family. Even these simple acts of kindness can make a big impact on the world. Love and happiness are contagious!

As Mr. Rogers once said;

“All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connect us as neighbors — in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.”

Thanks for listening to this episode about Fred Rogers. Be sure to tune in next Monday for a new episode!

Sir Ernest Shackleton For Kids

Have you ever wondered what is at the top of the highest peaks and at the bottom of the deepest oceans? What is on the other side of the world or at the north and soul poles? Well, that is what young Ernest Shackleton used to dream about as he sat in his classroom and thought about all the adventures he could be going on, instead of sitting at a desk and studying his books. Instead, he wanted to be off visiting these places and experiencing them for himself! Earnest was born on February 15, 1874, in Ireland. Ernest Shackleton had always been very curious and an adventurer at heart. But instead of learning from other people’s experiences in books, he wanted to find about the things that made him curious, all by himself.

And that is why at 16 he left school and boarded a  sailing ship, Hogton Tower. He spent four years travelling on the ship and learned about three things that would help him during his future travels; trading, making friends and living under the same roof with all kinds of people.

As time passed Ernest grew smarter.He boarded different ships and learned something new each time. Then in 1901, he boarded the ship Discovery  to go on an expedition under the leadership of  Capt. Robert Falcon Scott, 1. An expedition is a trip to discover a  new place or do research. Earnest joined as a third lieutenant and took part in the sledge journey over the Ross Ice Shelf. A sledge journey also known as manhauling is pulling a small vehicle over the ice with the help of humans, machines or animals. Did you know that the Ross Ice shelf is the latest ice-shelf of Antarctica which is hundreds of meters thick? . However, he became sick  and had to be sent home in 1903.

When Ernest returned home, he was very sad and let down that he had to leave the expedition early  But, back home people heard about his name and he became famous as an explorer . But his fame couldn’t pay his bills and it was time to look for a permanent job. He applied for a job in the Royal Navy. Even though he had the support and sponsorship of Markham and William Huggins, the president of the Royal Society, he failed to get the job.

Shakleton was sad and found a few different jobs, but couldn’t focus and wanted more than anything to be on an adventure . It was during that time that he was met a man named Beardmore who enjoyed the company of explorers and adventurers. This wealthy man was amused by Ernest’s heartfelt wish to head back to Antarctica. So, Beardmore decided to pay for Shackleton’s second voyage. The goal of this expedition was to reach  both the geographical South Pole and the South Magnetic Pole. South Pole is one of the two points of the earth where the Earth’s two axis meet. It is opposite to the North Pole.

On the first of January 1908, the sailing ship Nimrod set off from Lyttelton Harbour, New Zealand. But, before he left, Robert Scott made Shackleton promise that he wouldn’t make his discoveries in the McMurdo area as it was his own point of research and exploration. Since, he had made a promise to an old friend and a companion, Shackleton directed his ship towards the eastern sector of the Great Ice Barrier. They finally arrived on their destination on January 21st 1908. 

When Shackleton arrived, he discovered that the Barrier Inlet had extended and had turned into a large bay, where hundreds of whales swam peacefully in the open waters. Ernest Shackleton was so inspired that he came up with the idea of calling the area the  “Bay of Whales”. 

During this time, the weather conditions were harsh and the ice was unstable, which means it might crack and that would be very dangerous. And a safe camp had to be made there. But things began to worsen and the only option was to break the promise he had made with his friend and head for the McMurdo Sound. He made this decision to save the lives of all of his companions. 

But even when the weather was harsh and the ship threatened to topple over, the spirits of the men remained high. It was mostly due to Shackleton’s gift to communicate with each and every crew member, keeping them happy and focused on their ambitions. This made him a very good leader. He gave them hope when the journey was dangerous and frightening.

On October 29, 1908, the “Great Southern Journey”, under the leadership of Ernest Shackleton and three of his companions  a man named Wild, Eric Marshall and Jameson Adams began. Three months later they reached the farthest south point that was 112 miles away from the pole. On their way, they passed by a glacier which was the biggest one that they had ever seen!. A glacier is a huge piece of ice floating in the water. Remembering the help  Beardmore gave  him, Shackleton name it the “Beardmore Glacier”, after his friend. With this, Shackleton and three of his friends became the first ones to see and travel to the south polar plateau.

Another accomplishment of their journey was the first to ever climb Mount Erebus and the location of the South Magnetic Pole. This amazing feat was done by Edgeworth David, Douglas Mawson, and Alistair Mackay, three of the crew members of the ship Nimrod.

Soon afterwards, the they all returned home due to the lack of food and to avoid  starvation and death. When Shackleton returned home from his voyage to the South Pole f, he was received by everyone in  England as a hero. King Edward VII, was so proud of him  that he made him a knight, granting him the title of “Sir”. 

Ernest spent his time at home, busy writing about his time on the seas as he travelled to the edge of the world. He published his book Heart of the Antarctic soon after that. He was happy with his travels but was also sad because he still didn’t  reach his goal. 

The third time Sir Ernest Shackleton left England for Antarctica was in the year 1914 on the British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Being the leader of his crew, he instructed his crewmates to cross Antarctica from a base on the Weddell Sea to McMurdo Sound, via the South Pole. But things didn’t turn out so great for him even from the start. His ship Endurance, got trapped in ice and floated aimlessly for 10 months before getting into an accident with more ice.

The crew barely survived the crash and had to take shelter on ice floes for five more months before reaching the Elephant Island. Since, there were no animals in sight, all they had to eat was seal meat, penguins and sadly their dogs. 

Next Shackleton and five of his friends got on a whale boat and made a 16 day long journey across the harsh waters, finally reaching  southern Georgia. They crossed the islands and looked for  help. Shackleton made four attempts spanning over 4 months and finally was able to rescue his crewmates. It was a miracle that all of Shackleton’s crew mates survived !.

Even though he was sick, Shackleton’s love for adventure and exploration didn’t end. He made his fourth attempt for the sea voyage under the name of Shackleton-Rowett Antarctic Expedition, on the a ship called  Quest in 1921. But he became sick again and  and died during the journey. 

Earnest Shackleton’s will to keep going even when he was sick was amazing! He kept trying and trying even when his path was very difficult. He worked very hard to keep his crewmates happy and did everything he could to save them and keep them safe. His hunger for adventure and desire to explore the world have become legendary! His life inspires so many people around the world to set out on such adventures and discover something new every day. Next time you are curious about something, remember Earnest Shackleton and then do something about it! 

Marquis de Lafayette For Kids

Our story begins on September 6, 1757 when a young boy was born to the Lafayette Family in Chavaniac (Shevinyik), France. His parents named him Marie-Joseph-Paul-Roch-Gilbert du Motier! Can you imagine having a name that long! Not only did he start off with a big name, but also a very big fortune. He was born into a long line of French nobles, which means the people who ruled France and were very wealthy. He even inherited a castle at birth! The Lafayette Family had lived in France for many years and had distinguished themselves as brave soldiers. One of his ancestors fought alongside the brave woman soldier, Joan of Arc. Another ancestor traveled East and fought during the Crusades. His grandfather was a famed Musketeer and one of King Louis XV’s bodyguards. Also, when Lafayette was very young, he lost his father in a battle. So not only did he inherit much wealth and property, but also a famous name to live up to.

Although he had a long name he later became known as Lafayette, so we’ll use this name for the rest of our story. After losing his father, Lafayette’s mother moved to Paris and left him to be raised by his grandmother. Later, when he was 11, he moved to Paris with his mother to attend school. There he decided to be a soldier like his father and the many generations of Lafayette’s before him. He attended a school to learn to be a Musketeer, one of the king’s famous bodyguards. He graduated and did this for a time while still in school. 

When Lafayette was 14, his family introduced him to a young woman named Adrienne Marie Francois. She was only 12, but they spent time with each other and eventually fell in love. Later, they were married when Lafayette was 16 and she was 14. They ended up being a good match and stayed together for the rest of their lives.

By 1775, Lafayette was a Luitenant in the French Army and watched with interest what was going on across the ocean in the American Colonies. There, the British ruled the colonies but many of the Americans wanted to break free and become their own country. This struggle and war later became known as the American Revolution. Lafayette was French and the French didn’t get along with the British. They had fought against each other in many wars, include the Seven Years War or French and Indian War in America. Lafayette began to think about how he might help the American’s fight for liberty and get back at his enemies, the British. His father had also died in a battle against the British. 

In 1776 the French decided to help the Americans fight the British by sending soldiers and weapons. Lafayette volunteered to go with them. He was only 18 at the time, but his heart was set on going. When the British heard the French decided to help, they threatened to declare war against France, too. This caused France to change its position, but Lafayette had already made up his mind to go. His father-in-law, who was also his commanding officer, threatened to arrest him if he tried to leave to America. Lafayette hid from him and decided to find a way to escape to America, anyway. He was determined to join their cause and nothing would stop him. 

Lafayette’s first problem was America was across the ocean and he didn’t have a ship. He decided to use his great wealth to buy one. Then, he and the his friends boarded his ship and sailed for 2 months to America.

In Philadephia, Lafayette met General George Washington of America’s Continental Army. They ate dinner together and became good friends right away. Lafayette joined George Washington’s staff and in many ways became the father he never had. 

In September 1777, Lafayette fought in his first battle, The Battle of Brandywine. While rallying the troops to attack, he was hit in the leg and wounded, but continued to rally the soldiers to hold off the British advances.

Later that year after he recovered, he fought in another battle and defeated the British in Gloucester. During that same winter, he stayed with George Washington at Valley Forge. At Valley Forge they waited out a very harsh winter. Many soldiers suffered and were lost, but Washington and Lafayette and others were able to encourage the troops and keep them from leaving to continue the fight against the British.

Lafayette next fought in battles at Barren Hill, Monmouth, and Rhode Island, and was successful in his attacks and given a sword for his bravery and skill in battle. By this time, the French government now planned to help the Americans and Lafayette sailed a ship back to France to help get more soldiers and weapons to help.

In France, Lafayette was praised as a hero for fighting in America. He was also happy to see his wife and children again. While he was there she gave birth to a boy. They named him George Washington Lafayette! There, Lafayette also met Benjamin Franklin and worked with him and the French army to find enough soldiers and weapons to take back to America. Then, he sailed back to America to continue the fight.

In America, he found George Washington and the Continental Army struggling. They had lost battles and were worried they wouldn’t win the war. Washington was happy to see Lafayette and gave him command over troops as they continued the fight. Battles were won and lost and Lafayette continued to write letters to France urging them to send more soldiers and weapons. 

The Battle of Yorktown was one of the major battles in the American war for Independence. There, Lafayette and Alexander Hamilton and their troops faced off against the British general Cornwallis. Ships and soldiers from France also joined the battle. Muskets and cannons were fired from both sides. Smoke and gunfire filled the air. The battle was very intense and many soldiers were lost. In the final moments of the battle, Lafayette and Hamilton charged the British defenses and fought with swords in hand-to-hand combat until the Americans won the battle and General Cornwallis surrendered. The war wasn’t completely over yet, but the final major land battle had been won and America was on its way to freedom as a nation. 

After the war, the Marquis de Lafayette returned to France and was welcomed as a hero for his bravery. There, he joined the abolitionists in their struggle against slavery. He believed all people should be treated equal, regardless of the color of their skin. Lafayette even wrote a letter to George Washington, encouraging him to liberate his slaves.

Lafeyette spent the rest of his life in France dealing with its own revolution, but being an noble, he worked to find ways that the common people and the monarchy, the king, could work toward a better country. He lived through the French Revolution and later the rule of the general and dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte. He spent the later part of his life running his farm, far away from city and government life, much like his hero and father figure, George Washington. 

When Lafeyette was 67, he made his final visit to the United States. There he visited the grave of George Washington and spent time with Thomas Jefferson who was now 81, near the end of his life. His spoke to congress and once again toured the states where he was welcome as a hero. While at Bunker Hill, one of the battle sites of the War of Independence, he asked his son to gather up a scoop of dirt. 

After returning to France, in 1834, Lafayette passed away and was buried using some of the dirt he had collected at Bunker Hill.

Spend some time thinking about what it might have been like to be Lafayette. He was born with much wealth and privilege. He could have just stayed in France and enjoyed is money, but during the War for Independence, he went against the wishes of his family and government and used his own money to travel to the colonies and help in their fight for freedom. Think about what it means to be brave? Can you think of a time when you had to be brave? It’s not always easy. But often when we take the leap and do something that’s not easy, we grow and become stronger. That’s one of the only ways to become stronger, to do hard things that require bravery. I believe you can do hard things! I believe that you can be brave!

Clara Barton For Kids

When was the last time you helped someone? Did it feel like it was very important? How did you feel at the time? Most people go through their lives performing acts of service at one time or another. Clara Barton was a special person who devoted her entire life to helping others, and tried to be of service in whatever she did – in her family, in her work, even on the battlefield of the American Civil War!

Clarissa Barton was born Christmas Day in 1821.

She started going to school when she was just three years old, and she was very good at reading and spelling. Clara only had one friend because she was so shy and timid.

At the age of ten, her brother David fell from the roof of a barn and hurt his head very badly. Clara wanted to help take care of him, so she learned how to give him his medicine, and how to place leeches on his body – which was a typical medical practice at the time. Even after the doctors gave up on treating her brother, Clara continued to help care for him, and he eventually got better. 

While Clara was growing up, her family moved in order to help a family member take care of their house and farm. Clara was happy and persistent in offering her help, which included repairing and repainting the house that Clara’s family lived in. Clara loved to play with her cousins, and loved activities such as horseback riding. 

As a teenager, Clara’s parents encouraged her to become a schoolteacher as a way to help her overcome her shyness. Clara obtained her teaching certificate and was a very successful teacher, able to handle even the most rambunctious and energetic children. Clara was asked to open a free public school in New Jersey. The school became very successful, and Clara would teach classes to over 600 people. 

Clara later moved to Washington, D.C. and worked in the U.S. Patent Office as a clerk, helping to file and keep track of patents. Clara was the first woman to receive a clerkship in the federal government, and her salary was the same as the male clerks in the Patent Office. 

While she worked at the Patent Office, the American Civil War began. In The Civil War the Northern States and the Southern States fought over whether the nation should be divided or stay together. During the war many soldiers were hurt in battle. Clara went to the railroad station in Washington D.C. to help nurse the wounded men who had been transported there. She brought them the clothing, food, and supplies they needed to recover from their injuries. As she worked with the men, Clara learned how to store and distribute medical supplies. She worked hard to help the soldiers feel cared for; she often read books to them, helped them write letters to their families, and talked to them to help keep them in good spirits. Clara believed this is what she was meant to do in life, andbegan to look for ways  to help the soldiers fighting in the war. In 1862 in Virginia she saw the awful fighting first hand and helped to care for wounded soldiers near several other battles, including Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. In order to gather supplies, Clara even placed an ad in the newspaper, and people in the area helped to donate supplies to take care of the wounded soldiers. Even when supplies weren’t available, Clara still did everything she could to help. For example,at one battle where they didn’t have any bandages, the wounded were treated using corn-husks instead. The soldiers nicknamed Clara ‘the Angel of the Battlefield’ for the help that she gave them. 

Clara was known for helping all soldiers who needed aid, even if they fought for the other side, which in this case was the South. She said ‘I may be compelled to face danger, but never fear it, and while out soldiers can stand and fight, I can stand and feed and nurse them.’ Clara was brave and helped soldiers even while battles were taking place around her; while she was tending one soldier a bullet from the fighting tore through the sleeve of her dress!

After the war ended, Clara discovered that the relatives of soldiers who had died in the war were sending letters to the War Department trying to find their loved ones. These letters were going unanswered because the soldiers had been buried in unmarked graves, which meant that no one knew what had happened to them or where they were buried. Clara wrote to Abraham Lincoln asking for permission to start responding to the families and trying to locate their missing loved ones. President Lincoln said yes, and she began running the Office of Missing Soldiers. Clara Barton and her assistants wrote over forty thousand replies to letters, helping to locate more than twenty-two thousand missing men! During the summer of 1865, Clara helped to find, identify and properly bury thirteen thousand individuals who had died in a Confederate prisoner of war camp. She would continue to work with the Office of Missing Soldiers for four more years, helping to identify and bury twenty thousand more Union soldiers and ensuring that their graves were marked. 

Clara gave lectures around the United States about her experiences during the war, and drew large crowds when she spoke. After her speaking tour, a doctor suggested that she travel, to rest and remove herself from the physically and mentally demanding work she had done. She decided to travel to Europe.

While in Europe, Clara Barton worked with the organization known as the International Red Cross. Clara helped to prepare military hospitals and gave aid to the Red Cross Society during the Franco-Prussian War. She helped poor people in Strasbourg find work after the Siege of Paris, and was put in charge of distributing supplies to the people of Paris. Because of her work, Clara was given the Golden Cross of Baden and the Prussian Iron Cross. 

She was so inspired that she began to petition for an American branch of the International Red Cross to be created. Clara argued  that not only could the American Red Cross be helpful in war, but it could also give relief and aid during natural disasters like earthquakes, forest fires, and hurricanes. It was founded in 1881, with its first local branch in New York, and Clara served as the first president of the American branch. They built their headquarters in Washington, D.C. near the White House. She was able to help with  such disasters as the Johnstown Flood in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1889 (at the time one of the worst disasters in American history) and the Galveston Flood in 1900. 

Clara continued to help the Red Cross across the world  as well. In 1897 she sailed to Constantinople and helped to open the first American International Red Cross headquarters in Turkey. She would also take several trips to Armenia to provide relief and aid, and she worked in hospitals in Cuba.

After Clara resigned as the president of the American Red Cross, she founded the National First Aid Society, an organization meant to start local first aid programs.

To this day The American National Red Cross continues to be an important part of our country. They provide emergency assistance, disaster relief, and disaster preparedness education throughout the United States. 

Clara continued to give speeches and lectures about her work after she left the Red Cross organization. She published a book about her life called The Story of My Childhood in 1907. She would pass away five years later after contracting pneumonia. 

The work that Clara Barton did to help others and the example she set of continuous service continues to be an inspiration. In 1948, a postage stamp with a portrait of Clara and an image of the American Red Cross symbol was created. Clara Barton was inducted in the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1973. 

The next time you see someone who needs help, remember Clara Barton and her example of service. There are always opportunities to help others, large and small, and our acts of service can help others see the importance of giving aid and being helpful however possible.