Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Great American Communicators: Sequoyah

Great American Communicators
Sequoyah: Inventor of the Cherokee Syllabary

Sequoyah, born in the 1770’s, was a Cherokee Indian. His mother was full blood Indian, and his father was probably at least half-white. His English name is Geroge Gist or Guess. Sequoyah became an excellent blacksmith and silversmith and operated a trading business. He also had a drinking problem, but he gave up alcohol when he saw how it was ruining his life.

Sequoyah wanted the Indian people to have a way to read “talking leaves” like the English speaking people did. He never spoke English, and he never understood how the English alphabet worked, although he had seen some books. Facing much opposition and taking 12 years away from his business, he invented the Cherokee syllabary. This is like an alphabet, but there is a character for each syllable, not for each individual phonetic sound. He had originally tried to do a character for each word, like in Chinese. Sequoyah used 85 characters in his syllabary.

In order to prove that his syllabary worked, he taught his daughter, Ah-yo-kah how to read. Word spread quickly of Sequoyah's invention. In 1821, the Cherokee Nation adopted Sequoyah's alphabet as their own. Within months thousands of Cherokee became literate. Thousands of Cherokee began to use Sequoyah's invention on a daily basis and the syllabary gave the nation the ability to create the first American Indian newspaper, The Cherokee Phoenix.

By 1825, the Bible and numerous religious hymns and pamphlets, educational materials and legal documents and books of every description were translated into the Cherokee language.

Read more about Sequoyah here: Sequoyah Birthplace Museum

by David J. Brown (a Cherokee)

Thou Cadmus of thy race!
Thou giant of thy age!
In every heart a place,
In history a living page;
The juggernaut chariot time,
May crush as she doth give;
But a noble name like thine,
Shall ever with Kee-too-whah live.

Orion-like thou dost stand,
In any age and clime,
With intellect as grand,
As ever shown by time,
'Twas thy hand lit the spark
That heavenward flashed its ray
Revealing the shining mark
The straight and narrow way.

Ignorance and superstitious awe
From high pedestals toppled o'er
When as the ancient giver of law,
Smiting, thou mad'st the waters pour;
Stand thou didst on Pisgah's height,
And gazed into the future deep.
But day was ne'er unclasped from night
E'er thy spirit silently fell asleep.

Great American Communicators: Benjamin Franklin

This is another handout from my series on Great American Communicators that I taught to my students in the middle school English class in a large home school co-op.

Benjamin Franklin’s Contributions to Communications

  • Benjamin Franklin was born in 1706, the 15th of the 20 Franklin children! There must have been a whole lot of communicating going on in his house when he was a kid!
  • He stopped going to school when he was 10 (his parents couldn’t afford it) but he LOVED to read!
  • He apprenticed as a printer -- but he hated working for his brother James and so he ran away.
  • His pseudonym (false name) for writing letters to his brother’s paper was “Mrs. Silence Dogood”!
  • At age 24 he started the Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper.
  • He created the Poor Richard’s Almanack from 1732 to 1757. It was a yearly book with a calendar, list of events, advice, witty sayings, weather predictions, etc.
  • He founded the first public library in Philadelphia.
  • He established the postal system.
  • He founded a college.
  • He was elected to the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1751.
  • He was sent to England several times to protest their treatment of the American colonies.
  • He went as the ambassador to France to persuade them to support the colonies in the Revolutionary War.
  • As a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, he helped write the Declaration of Independence.
  • He was the only man to sign the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris AND the Constitution.
  • He wrote essays against slavery.
  • He tried to invent an easier alphabet, but it never caught on.
  • He wrote an autobiography, The Life of Benjamin Franklin.
  • I’m not even listing his scientific inventions – just the things that are about communications!

Can you unscramble these words and phrases that appear on this page? riptren, dusymepon, zegatet, clamkaan, clubip rilybar, lopast ystesm, bodarasams, easyss, tunconsittio, goubarthopyai, habalpet

Here are some of Benjamin Franklin's proverbs:  

  • An empty bag cannot stand upright.
  • Be always ashamed to catch thyself idle.
  • The doors of wisdom are never shut.
  • Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
  • God helps them that help themselves.
  • Hunger never saw bad bread.
  • If you'd have a servant that you like, serve your self.
  • Keep thy shop and thy shop will keep thee.
  • A lie stands on one leg, the truth on two.
  • A man without a wife is but half a man.
  • Nothing but money is sweeter than honey.
  • One today is worth two tomorrows.
  • Pay what you owe and you'll know what's your own.
  • A quarrelsome man has no good neighbors.
  • The rotten apple spoils his companion.
  • Speak little, do much.
  • Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.
  • Up, sluggard, and waste not life; in the grave will be sleeping enough.
  • Visits should be short, like a winter's day.
  • Well done is better than well said.
  • A good example is the best sermon.
  • You may delay, but time will not.
  • There are lazy minds as well as lazy bodies.
  • Let thy child's first Lesson be obedience, and the second will be what thou wilt.
  • Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that's the stuff life is made of.
  • A good conscience is a continual Christmas.
  • God heals, and the doctor takes the fee.
What do these proverbs mean? Can you write some of them in your own words?

Put a star by the ones that talk about working hard and not being lazy.

P.S. Benjamin Franklin spent many years in Philadelphia, including a lot of time working in the building that is now known Independence Hall.  We visited historic Philadelphia this summer; you can see our pictures of the sites here: Historic Philadelphia.

Great American Communicators: Thomas Jefferson

In the middle school English class which I taught for a large home school co-op, I used to do a series on Great American Communicators the years we studied American literature.  I featured about a dozen men and women who had made significant contributions to American communications either by what they spoke or wrote themselves, or what they did to improve communication for others.  Some of them included John Winthrop (Puritan pastor), Jonathan Edwards (preacher in the Great Awakening), Benjamin Franklin (statesman, newspaperman, inventor, library and college founder, etc.), Noah Webster (creator of the American dictionary and spelling books), Alexander Graham Bell (inventor of the telephone and teacher of the deaf), Sequoyah (inventor of the Cherokee syllabary for written language), and Phillis Wheatley (slave poet).  Here is what I gave my students in their handouts for Thomas Jefferson.

Great American Communicators: Thomas Jefferson

President John F. Kennedy welcomed forty-nine Nobel Prize winners of the Western Hemisphere to the White House in 1962, saying, "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."

Thomas Jefferson was a VERY talented man. He was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, second Governor of Virginia, second U.S. Vice President, third U.S. president, lawyer, inventor, architect, agriculturalist, archaeologist, and the founder of the University of Virginia. He also must have been quite a reader. After the Library of Congress was burned during the War of 1812, Thomas Jefferson sold Congress 6,487 books from his collection to start a new one.

However, for all of his intellectual gifts, Thomas Jefferson was not an evangelical Christian. He was probably a deist. He made up his own condensed version of the Gospels which left in the moral teachings of Jesus, but none of the miracles. So from an eternal perspective, he was not a wise man. 1 Corinthians 1:18-20 & 25 says:

"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? . . . . For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."

Oddly enough, Jefferson is said to have been a poor public speaker and gave only two public speeches as president. He even refused to give his State of the Union speeches in person, and instead sent them to Congress in writing. His other communication skills more than compensated for this lack. You don’t have to be good at everything to be good at something.

Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. John Adams, who had been the 2nd president, died the same day.

Jefferson’s epitaph said:



He didn’t even mention that he had been President of the United States!

At the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., these words of Thomas Jefferson are inscribed: “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

Jefferson is also one of the four presidents (along with George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt) carved into Mount Rushmore. His portrait appears on the nickel and the rare $2 bill.

Can you find it on these pages?

□ Find the ellipsis in the Bible passage. Why is it there? (It is a kind of punctuation.)
□ Find an example of humor in the form of a compliment.
□ Who died the same day as Thomas Jefferson?

Think About It!

Thomas Jefferson worked with other men to write the Declaration of Independence. They each contributed their ideas, but he was the one to put it all together. What kind of skills does it take to get a group to agree on what to say?

Can you imagine being the person responsible for writing a document like this that would change world history? Thomas Jefferson’s words didn’t just affect the people right around him in his own time period. They affect us every day, because we live in this country, and they affect people all around the world because so many governments are based on ours.

You may not write anything as earth shattering as the Declaration of Independence, but your words – both written and spoken – do have an effect on people around you. Do you know what a ripple effect is? That’s when you have an effect on someone else, and then they in turn have an effect on someone else, and so on. So, if you take the time to encourage someone, they might treat someone else kinder, and then that person may pass the favor on to the next person, etc. But if you are nasty to someone, they might be nasty to everyone else around them, and so on.

My challenge to you is to stay faithful to Christ in all that you do, so that you won’t just be known for being smart or talented, but you will have an impact on others for eternity.

Read It Aloud!Preamble to The Declaration of Independence

I have included part of the Declaration of Independence below. Of course, they didn’t have TV or the Internet back then, so it was sent out by courier to all the colonies. Imagine, like nine year old Andrew Jackson (who later became president) that you have been chosen to read it to the townspeople. Recite it out loud as clearly as you can and think about what it says. See if you can memorize several lines of it.

In Congress, July 4, 1776

The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America

When, in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers form the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

(There is much more! This is just the start of it!)

P.S. Our family visited Jefferson's beautiful estate, Monticello, on our summer vacation.  You can see pictures here: Monticello.

Virginia Knowles
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