Callista Talks with Jennifer Green on The Steve Deace Radio Show
The Steve Deace Radio Show
October 15, 2012
Jennifer Green: Our next guest is Callista Gingrich, who has written another children’s book that tells some of the true stories of our American history, using her little elephant, Ellis. Mrs. Gingrich, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I sincerely appreciate it and have been looking forward to this interview.
Gingrich: Thanks for having me, Jennifer. It’s great to be with you.
Green: I was able to purchase several copies of your first book and give it to my children’s teacher and give it to their teachers as an end of the year present. They both were very appreciative because they’re always looking for good material to use to teach, especially our younger children, the real story of our heritage. So, why children’s books and why about history?
Gingrich: I write these books because I love our country, and I believe America is an indeed an exceptional nation. And I think it is more important now than ever that our kids understand what makes this country so special. Unfortunately, many of our schools are failing to teach our American history, including our founding principles and founding values. Instead they are teaching revisionist or politically correct history. So as a consequence, many of our students actually have no idea what makes America special. So this is the inspiration for me to write these books.
Green: You have to explain to our audience, and I think Ellis is adorable – I love the little elephant – but why did you choose him.
Gingrich: I knew I needed a unique character to capture the interest and attention of young children. I considered many animals, including bunnies and hippos and giraffes, but in the end I could not resist this adorable little elephant. Politics not withstanding.
Green: You’re sure it wasn’t a slight dig?
Gingrich: We love Ellis.
Green: We love Ellis. That’s a good answer.
Gingrich: We were blessed to work with a wonderful illustrator. Her name is Susan Arciero. She has really brought Ellis the Elephant to life.
Green: In this book, tell us a little bit about what’s happening to Ellis. He’s going all the back to the settlers and the early colonies.
Gingrich: He did. In Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride, Ellis discovers how America began as he learns about Colonial America. We start with the first settlers at Jamestown, and go to the Pilgrims in Massachusetts, and the purchase of Manhattan from the native Americans. It goes through each of the thirteen colonies to look at their unique attributes. Colonial America is really a major and often unknown part of our American history. It’s a really important time, and it is vitally important that our kids know that this was a time when our characteristics and traits as Americans were shaped. Unfortunately, as we look at recent surveys we find that a majority of fourth graders can’t identify Jamestown as our first English settlement. Most fourth graders don’t know why the pilgrims left England and fewer than a third of eighth graders know why the colonies fought England during the Revolutionary War. So we have a lot of work to do. We really need to give our children the tools to help them understand what it means to be American.
Green: Well and it’s really hard to build a country when you don’t have a solid foundation. And really our colonists provided that foundation. Our children, I think so sadly, really don’t understand that many of the principles that these colonies were founded on – and you can tell me if I was wrong – and that every colony attributes their success to providence, to God, and that’s not taught in schools today.
Gingrich: That’s right. The colonists were really very good role models and embodied many of the characteristics and traits and that we like to see in our presidents and leaders today. Values like hard work, integrity, perseverance, and resourcefulness. All traits that enabled our very first settlers to survive, thrive, and build this great nation.
Green: And they didn’t have it very easy. That’s one of those things that you know, I have two children, they don’t understand how difficult the life of a colonist was because they have never had to face it personally, which I should be grateful for. They will hear about it but don’t understand the sheer hard work and providence that it took to make this country actually take hold and continue to be successful.
Gingrich: That’s right, and we really do have a responsibility to teach our children this, so they understand the greatness of our nation. We try to highlight some of the very unique things about each colony in this book, and it’s interesting to note for example, in New Hampshire they had a rule that every village with 50 or more people would have its own school, placing a very high value on education.
In Rhode Island, Ellis learns about Roger Williams and his quest to make freedom of religion a basic human right.
In Georgia, Ellis learns about people who were given a second chance by working themselves out of debt instead of going to prison. These are very rich stories that are remarkable and our kids need to hear them.
Green: Now you had to research a lot of this. I’m sure you’re very up on your history. You’re married to a historian. But were some of the things that you found out surprise you?
Gingrich: Yes, the story about New Hampshire surprised me. I didn’t realize they had a high priority on education like that in Colonial America. We really looked into each of the colonies and looked to highlight the values and principles that were shown. Values like freedom and self-government, religious liberty, things that make us Americans.
Green: So you were talking a little bit about Virginia, which is where you’re calling from right now, and you said that Virginia there were some important things that happened there that Ellis learned. Can you tell us about Virginia? Virginia will be a key state in this upcoming election. A lot of people are keeping their eyes on Virginia
Gingrich: That’s right. Ellis learns about our very first settlement, which was established in Jamestown, Virginia. Most people think this settlement was established because people wanted to come and prosper because they wanted to make money in the new world, but it’s interesting to note that when the first settlers came and landed at Cape McHenry, the first thing they did was erect a cross and give thanks to God for a safe a journey across the ocean. And that’s a story that is often unknown today.
Green: I think, my son right now is going through a lot of this history in school, and what a lot of people didn’t realize is that we kind of lump together two groups and call them pilgrims, but it was actually the separatists who wanted to have religious freedom. And then other people who were coming over to look for adventure. But none of them really expected it to be easy.
Gingrich: They didn’t. They were really the risk takers, and they are to be admired today. We can learn so much from our founding colonists.
Green: One of the things that my son learned, that I think he was a little bit surprised about, is that they stopped in another country for a little bit before they came to America. They stopped in Holland and were so well liked, and so well loved the way they worked hard and worked together that their government actually asked them to stay on and not leave. Did you know that?
Gingrich: Yes, and fortunately for us they came our way.
Green: I know and that’s exactly what I said to my son. Callista, thanks for joining us. The name of the book, Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride, and I’m sure it’s going to be a success for you.
Gingrich: Thank you, Jennifer.