President Donald Trump on Monday created a “1776 Commission” to promote “patriotic education” and counter lessons that he says divide Americans on race and slavery and teach students to “hate their own country.”
On the eve of Election Day, Trump directed the commission’s creation, via executive order, to “better enable a rising generation to understand the history and principles of the founding of the United States in 1776 and to strive to form a more perfect Union.”
The order follows Trump’s recent attacks on critical race theory and the 1619 Project, directed by The New York Times Magazine, which revisits the country’s history with a focus on slavery and Black Americans’ contributions.
Racial justice issues have been at the center of this election following protests this summer and fall over the police killings of Black men and women. Trump has repeatedly lashed out at protesters, positioning himself as the “law and order” candidate.
His order blasts historical accounts that he says have “vilified” the nation’s founders.
“This radicalized view of American history lacks perspective, obscures virtues, twists motives, ignores or distorts facts, and magnifies flaws, resulting in the truth being concealed and history disfigured,” the order states. “Failing to identify, challenge, and correct this distorted perspective could fray and ultimately erase the bonds that knit our country and culture together.”
He blames “one-sided and divisive accounts” on race for failing to recognize the country’s “successful effort to shake off the curse of slavery and to use the lessons of that struggle to guide our work toward equal rights for all citizens in the present.”
The commission’s 20 members will be appointed by the president and serve for a term of two years. Ex-officio members will include the secretaries of State, Defense, Interior, Housing and Urban Development, and Education, along with assistants to the president for domestic policy and for intergovernmental affairs.
The order acknowledges that the federal government’s role is to preserve state and local control over instructional programs.
The commission is tasked with writing a report on the “core principles of the American founding and how these principles may be understood to further enjoyment of ‘the blessings of liberty’ and to promote our striving ‘to form a more perfect Union.’”
They must also help ensure patriotic education is offered to the public at national parks, battlefields, monuments, museums, installations, landmarks, cemeteries and other places that are significant to the Revolution and country’s founding. Agencies will be told to prioritize “the American Founding” in federal grants and initiatives.
Funding will be provided through the Department of Education and subject to the availability of appropriations. Members will serve without compensation.
The order also calls on agencies to prioritize federal resources to promote patriotic education, including the Department of State through its Fulbright scholars program.