Last week College of the Ozarks hosted a symposium on patriotic education with several special guests, including former Vice President Mike Pence. 

College of the Ozarks hosted The National Symposium on Patriotic Education, Sept. 16-17. Michael R. Pence, 48th vice president of the United States, was the keynote speaker for The National Symposium on Patriotic Education on Friday, Sept. 17. The symposium was presented by The William S. Knight Center for Patriotic Education, according to a press release from C of O. 

According to a press release, the symposium was streamed live to thousands of virtual attendees, who registered to view the content digitally from the comfort of their homes and offices across the nation. Students, staff, and faculty also attended the event in person, which was held in The Howell W. Keeter Athletic Complex on the college’s campus located in Point Lookout. The purpose of the symposium was to revive historic American values and pride on the eve of the 250th anniversary of America’s founding.

The event opened with a special College of the Ozarks Praise Ensemble, with music coordinated by Gregg Busch, assistant professor of music and theatre.

College of the Ozarks President Jerry C. Davis discussed the importance of understanding our history to ensure the freedom of future generations in the introductory address.

“Patriotic education is the debt we owe to our history,” Davis said. “As President Ronald Reagan said, ‘Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.’”

The symposium started on Thursday, Sept. 16, in the Royal Oak Forum at The Keeter Center. At this first session, special guest speaker Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former White House press secretary, presented ‘Liberty’s Lessons’, a lesson about learning about America’s heritage.

Friday, Sept. 17, featured five sessions and a dedication. 

- Session 2 featured Edward Graham, assistant to the vice president of Programs and Government Relations for Samaritan’s Purse, presenting ‘Liberty’s Cost’, a lesson on honoring the sacrifices of veterans and their families at 8 to 9:30 a.m.

- Session 3 featured Ryan Manion, president of the Travis Manion Foundation, presenting ‘Liberty’s Cost’, a lesson on honoring the sacrifices of veterans and their families at 9:45 to 10:45 a.m.

- Session 4 featured Dr. Ben Carson, former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, presenting ‘Liberty’s Foundation’, a lesson about strengthening free enterprise through hard work at 1 to 2 p.m.

- The official dedication of The William S. Knight Center for Patriotic Education which was held at 2:30 p.m. The center, located on the C of O campus, strives to restore patriotism by teaching future generations the four key pillars of patriotic education: Liberty’s Lessons, Liberty’s Cost, Liberty’s Foundation, and Liberty’s Legacy.

- Session 5 featured former Vice President Michael R. Pence presenting ‘Liberty’s Legacy’, a lesson about transforming society through virtuous public, civic, and military service at 7 to 8:30 p.m. 


During the dedication of The William S. Knight Center for Patriotic Education, Davis welcomed students, staff, faculty, and donors to the event. His presentation was followed by an address from General Terrence R. Dake, chairman of the board of trustees at College of the Ozarks, who discussed the importance of restoring American values. Pence made congratulatory remarks, and the three then unveiled the official bronze statue of George Washington, sculpted by James Hall of Nixa, Missouri.

“We follow the news like you do about people tearing down statues, but we choose to build them up,” Davis said at the unveiling.

 “We hope to restore the belief that our nation is good and strong, with the underpinning of four key pillars of patriotic education focusing on liberty,” Marci Linson, vice president for patriotic activities and dean of admissions said during the dedication. “We’ll ensure that students understand liberty has a cost, and freedom isn’t free, by honoring the sacrifices of Veterans and their families. Lastly, we hope to inspire students to be liberty’s legacy by promoting public, civic, and military service.” 

During Session 5, keynote speaker Pence addressed the C of O students, challenging them to become informed citizens.

“We are standing here at Point Lookout, College of the Ozarks, one of the leading institutions of America,” Pence said. “You know that the foundation of America is freedom, and the foundation of freedom is faith. Thank you for stepping up. Thank you for coming to a place like this to become leaders for liberty for the future of America.”

Pence emphasized the importance of developing strong personal values and character.

“The truth is adversity doesn’t create character; adversity reveals character,” Pence said. “When hard times come, and your values and your convictions are challenged, you will be on that day the man or woman you prepared to be on every quiet day. So, grow into men and women of integrity. America is depending on it.”

Grace Carr, senior business management major, said she was grateful for Pence’s words. 

“I’m incredibly grateful to former Vice President Pence and his wife for taking the time to visit our college,” Carr said in the release. “His passion for both patriotism and faith is inspiring. It’s so rare in our world today to have an American leader grounded in both God and country, who is willing to do what it takes to protect the freedoms that we enjoy. I appreciated hearing him speak and am grateful to College of the Ozarks for doing what it takes to raise up Christlike, patriotic Americans.”

Davis concluded the Symposium with a call to action, inviting support for a congressional resolution to recognize Vietnam veterans and apologize for the treatment they received upon returning home.

 According to the press release, the symposium was only the beginning of C of O’s efforts to energize, encourage, and educate Americans through patriotic education resources.

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