Celebrating the Orator Patrick Henry

“I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

This portrait of Patrick Henry (Catalog Number INDE14066) was executed by an unidentified artist before 1878. The portrait, a copy of Thomas Sully’s 1815 portrayal of Henry (now at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation), was acquired by the City of Philadelphia between late 1876 and early 1878.

Perhaps the most famous words to define the American Revolution were spoken by Patrick Henry before the House of Burgesses at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia in March of 1775. Henry, born on May 29, 1736, had become a fiery orator for the cause of independence. His passion for freedom and self-government, along with his gift for oratory, gave a voice to the Patriots of 1776.

A Virginian, Patrick Henry was a lawyer, landowner, Burgess, delegate to two Continental Congresses and a Constitutional Convention, soldier in the Continental Army, governor of Virginia, and a founding father. His gifts of charity provided food to soldiers at Valley Forge and his allegiance to George Washington never wavered. He opposed ratification of the Constitution on the grounds of its giving too much power to the central government, but ardently supported the Bill of Rights.

Patrick Henry speaking in the Virginia House of Burgesses, May 1765. Steel engraving after the painting by Peter Frederick Rothermel (1817-1895).

Self-government, independence and the rights of the people have always required a healthy defense. The American military has always stepped up to the task. May is a month in which we honor and remember those who have always answered the call – defending our country, our property, our principles and our people.

The American military began as local militias – farmers, carpenters, shopkeepers, teachers and preachers who trained to defend their families and homes.  These men became known as Minutemen – ready to fight at a minute’s notice.  In 1775, the Continental Army, Continental Navy, and Continental Marines were formed to fight for independence from British rule. George Washington was named General of the Army and Commander.

Today, the United States Military consists of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Space Force. Army and Air National Guards maintain a civilian army trained and ready to fight.  The President is the Commander-in-Chief.

Members of our military have fought on soil around the world (WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Gulf, Afghanistan) as well as on home soil (American Revolution, Civil War, Indian Wars). The exceptional bravery, self-sacrifice, family tradition, loyalty to country and to each other, expertise, training and ability make it the finest military in the world, and its members most deserving of honor, assistance and memory of any among us.


Armed Forces Day
Observed on May 16 was first created on August 31, 1949 to combine the separate days of each service into one day to honor and acknowledge all American servicemen and women currently serving in the military. Now, a part of Armed Services Week features parades and programs to honor all under the Department of Defense.

Memorial Day

Observed on the last Monday of May, this holiday was once called Decoration Day, set aside to honor and remember those who lost their lives in military service (especially wartime).  American flags are flown at half-mast and people decorate soldiers’ graves with crosses and flowers. There are many claims to its place of origin, but observances began in both the North and the South in 1866 honoring Civil War dead. Gone, but not forgotten…the message to those who paid the ultimate price. It was made a national holiday in 1971.

National Day of Prayer

And, because we are a nation “under God”, a National Day of Prayer is observed on the first Thursday of May. The first national day of prayer was in 1775 when the Continental Congress called for a public day of fasting and prayer for the leadership of the Colonies.


“Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.” – Patrick Henry, 1788

“Our mission is to develop the next generation of patriots, educating them on the values, the principles and the Judaeo-Christian foundation on which our country was created and to instill in them the need to be diligent in keeping our God-given freedoms and liberties.”

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