Judge Michael Warren felt conviction after his daughter asked him why there wasn’t a specific time each year dedicated to remembering American history and celebrating the nation’s founding.
“We need to start a new celebration for America,” Leah, only 10 at the time, told her father.
Warren, a judge on the 6th Circuit Court in Oakland County, Michigan, says he determined that he couldn’t complain about that lack and then not do anything about it.
“So we decided to be audacious and to do a week,” he recalls.
In 2012, father and daughter formally co-founded Patriot Week. Every Sept. 11-17, they invite all Americans to join them in remembering the patriots who founded our country, the documents that established our government, and the history we must never forget.
Warren joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to share the history of Patriot Week and the resources offered by their website for families, schools, and communities to take part in the celebration.
Also on today’s show, we read your letters to the editor and share a good news story about a police officer who saved nine lives during her first year of service.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
Virginia Allen: I am so pleased to welcome back to the show Michael Warren, a judge and the co-creator of Patriot Week, a week dedicated to honoring and remembering America’s history. Judge Warren, thank you for being here.
Michael Warren: Well, as you know, I am a daily listener to The Daily Signal, so it is really my pleasure to come back. Thank you so much.
Allen: It’s a joy to have you back. You were with us about a year ago, actually, almost exactly a year ago. And you told us about Patriot Week and what you all do, about its founding. And the week, it runs every year from Sept. 11—obviously an incredibly significant day—through Sept. 17, which is Constitution Day. So if you would just refresh our memory, what is really the mission of Patriot Week and why did you decide to found it?
Warren: Well, our slogan is “Renewing the American Spirit,” and I think in today’s day and age, our listeners will agree that our country is in a real crisis. We are in a struggle for the soul of America.
Originally, when it started, it was more because of commercialization and ignorance and just kind of a complacency about our founding first principles and our history. And now we’re really under assault. There are so many people in our country and outside of our country that really are challenging the underlying fundamental principles of who we are as Americans.
Of course, we’ve always had the terrorists and that was part of the reason we picked 9/11 as our beginning date, but it seems like America is truly under assault across the globe and within.
There are these movements that are condemning America’s foundations, challenging our fundamental principles, condemning everybody in our origins as racist, ignoring the great strides that we have made. It seems like the more strides that we make, the less satisfied people are, at least some segments of our society.
So the point is to remind everyone about why America really is the greatest nation in world history, what made us that, and what we need to do to be able to preserve our freedom and liberty in the future.
Allen: Oh, that’s certainly so needed, as you say, right now, at this moment in history. Now, you actually co-founded Patriot Week with your daughter. Tell us a little bit about her, how old she is now, and how you as a dad inspire her and have inspired her to care about American history and our founding documents.
Warren: Well, first, I want to remind our listeners that they can find all about our story at patriotweek.org. And the story begins when she was just 10 years old. My daughter and I were sitting at a lunch table. And to really understand this, you have to learn a little bit more about me.
I am an adult convert to Catholicism. When I was raised as a young child, my father and mother really were not religious. My father … he’s changed a little now, thank goodness, but at the time he was an atheist, a disaffected Jew, and my mother was a disaffected Catholic, and I was raised as a nothing. And they used to say to me, “Mike, you can believe anything you want, just remember, it’s all baloney.” But they used a stronger term. And so I started as an atheist and then became an agnostic.
And then in law school of all places, the Holy Spirit came and found me. And I converted basically overnight, much to the surprise of all my friends and family.
I still remember calling up my grandma from Ann Arbor and saying, “Grandma, you’re going to take me to church this weekend.” And she said, “Michael?” I go, “Yep.” She goes, “Is this a joke?” I go, “No, Grandma, really, you’re going to take me to church this weekend.” And I quickly converted to Catholicism, much to her joy and, like I said, confusion to the rest of my family and friends.
And I tell you that because as an adult, I had to learn about the liturgical calendar. I knew a little bit about it before, but we have a series of religious holidays like Ash Wednesday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Pentecost, Advent, Christmas, Easter. And we have those days to stop the hustle-bustle of our life and to renew our faith. And all the great religions have this idea of a liturgical calendar—Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, they all have this idea.
… I’m kind of not just a history nerd, but I do deep dives into history, I realized that America used to have a civic calendar. We had Washington’s birthday, Lincoln’s birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving for the same exact reason, to stop the hustle-bustle of our days and to renew our faith in America.
In fact, this was something that was understood by the Founding Fathers, right out of the box. When we declared independence, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, that the anniversary of that day should be forever commemorated and celebrated with bells and bonfires and games and celebrations and illuminations in the sky from one end of the continent to the other now and forevermore.
And he was right, we still have Fourth of July celebrations. But he also said it should be a solemn day of devotion for the blessings of liberty and it ought to be solemnized.
Now, I don’t know about you, but the last time I had a hot dog at a July Fourth party was not a particularly solemn occasion. So I was explaining this to my then-10-year-old daughter, Leah. We were at a lunch table. She got very upset, pounded on that table, and said, “Dad, that’s wrong. We need to do something. We need to start a new celebration for America.” And I went, “Uh-oh, I can’t complain and then not do anything about it.”
So we decided to be audacious and to do a week kind of following the quantum model and some other models of longer celebrations. Then we looked for anchor dates and we decided Sept. 11, which at the time, a lot of people still do, were struggling with what to do with that date. And then Sept. 17 is the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. That’s called Constitution Day.
So we have those anchor dates and every day we celebrate a founding first principle from our Declaration of Independence, key documents, and speeches that embody them, Founding Fathers and other great patriots that made those come alive in America.
And then my daughter said, “Dad, we need to get the kids excited. Let’s have fireworks.” I said, “Leah, we do need to get the kids excited, but fireworks, you got to go outside. It’s kind of expensive. It’s kind of taken.” She goes, “Oh, yeah, you’re right Dad. Let’s have flags. Kids love flags.”
And we have all these really cool flags from American history that we don’t know what to do with. We don’t really have a reason to learn about it. And now we do for Patriot Week.
It’s been recognized by the U.S. Senate unanimously a couple years in a row now, hopefully going to be recognized again this year. We have about 17 state legislatures and governors who have recognized it.
It’s very grassroots, so we have all kinds of different activities. We’ve had parades, paloozas, picnics, panel discussions, debates, a gubernatorial debate that I presided over looking at those founding first principles, just a lot of classroom activities, community organizations that have been involved. So wide range of activities. And again, you can go to patriotweek.org to learn about those.
And then we also have on our website, we’ve launched a podcast, we have lesson plans, we have all kinds of information about those founding first principles and all the other features that we celebrate. … The heart of it’s in Michigan, but it is becoming a national phenomenon.
So, to answer your original question, she’s now 22. Leah is 22 and she’s in medical school at Wayne State, wants to be an emergency physician, but she’s still involved. She’s on our board of directors. We have a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and contribute significantly. And so it’s been a great pairing for my daughter and I, very, very special that we’re able to share that.
Allen: What a special thing indeed, to get to start something like this with your daughter and for so many years now, for more than a decade, to see it continue and individuals learn about America’s founding and our founding documents, that’s so, so critical.
And I love the framing of that, that in this backdrop of, OK, we have all these holidays and we have specific weeks where we celebrate certain things, it only makes sense that yes, we have a specific week every year to remind ourselves of our nation’s history and of those documents that maybe you read it in school, but as an adult, gosh, it’s certainly easy to go a year, a decade without ever looking at the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. And what a special time to get to remind ourselves of those principles.
So if you would talk a little bit more about just the practicals of Patriot Week. I mean, are you all giving lectures on your website? Are there interactive assignments people can do? And is this really geared more toward students or adults, or both?
Warren: It is definitely geared toward everyone from 5-year-olds to 99-year-olds, and I don’t want to dis the centenarians, so to the oldest that you can be.
Yes, we do have a lot of material online. One thing that we have is what we call daily rituals or celebrations. So if you’re by yourself, you’re at a rural area, you don’t have a lot of folks that you can get together with, you can go and we have a set of activities that you can do by yourself or with your family or with your friends. Something very simple is it could be a 5-minute activity to something that could take up to an hour. So we have, like, three different levels.
The podcast has a 48-ish episodes, doing our 49th, and on 9/11—and these are very deep dives on a variety of topics, including the Declaration of Independence.
We literally went through each word of the Declaration of Independence. As far as I can tell, nobody’s really done it this way. [The Heritage Foundation] has done a great job with the Constitution, so we can’t compete there. But with regard to the declaration, we’re going to have something that’s very unique. So people can learn there.
We have over 150 TV shows. And Leah and I are co-hosts, so you can see her grow up over the years, so that’s really cool.
Lesson plans that people can download and do with their students or do for themselves to remind themselves of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. We have a variety of topics.
So every day we celebrate a first principle. And I just want to spend a minute on that.
We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they’re endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that when any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to establish new government, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
Those words from the Declaration of Independence, revolutionary in 1776, they remain revolutionary today and they are under assault by ignorance, people don’t care, as well as by people that actually don’t believe in equality. They want to divide us up. They don’t want to treat everybody the same. That don’t believe in the rule of law. They want to take to the streets and force people to do what they want to do.
Every one of those principles is under assault now. We have to remind Americans about why those principles made us such a wonderful country, unique in the whole course of human history. And if we can remember those principles, the people that brought them to life—and again, it’s not just the Founding Fathers, goes all the way to Martin Luther King Jr., Susan B. Anthony. We’ve had a long march of freedom and liberty in our country and equality and we need to recognize that, recognize our flaws, but also recognize all the wonderful things that America can be and fulfill its first principles.
So we celebrate the principles, the people that brought them to life, the documents and the flags that embody that. And there’s a slew of ways to get involved and encourage people to, if they have new ideas, to do them on their own. You have Mother’s Day, you celebrate any way you want, you don’t have to go to some foundation to figure out how to do it.
But I would encourage people to reach out to me directly at [email protected] if they’re interested in getting engaged, because this is very grassroots, and if they have ideas about how to take this even further.
Allen: And Judge Warren, as we have just marked … the 20th anniversary of 9/11, what do you think is really some of those key principles that we need to be teaching the younger generation? What is it that we need to be instilling in them? For those that maybe weren’t even born yet on 9/11 or that were so young that they don’t remember. As we look back as a nation and as we look toward our future and how we can move forward as a stronger country and push back against division and actually become more united, how do we get young people to be excited, to be passionate about our founding, about our history, and to be patriotic citizens?
Warren: That is a great challenge and great question. So first off, I would say that I’m a former member of the state Board of Education. I’ve still been very involved in education ever since I’ve left the state board. I’ve been on the bench over 18 years, but who’s counting? And what I’ve realized is that we don’t do a good job at all about teaching American history and civics.
We have a system that’s set up to fail. It’s not because we don’t have good teachers, we have a lot of great teachers, but it’s just not a priority in the school system. So one thing that we really need to do is lift up American history and civics to the fundamental forefront of education.
We have public schools because there were really two reasons. The first was people needed to be able to read so they could read the Bible and be saved. And the second reason was we needed to understand the foundations of our country so we could maintain our free republic. Those were the two main things.
Now, obviously, we don’t teach the Bible anymore in schools, or at least not in the way that those that started public education had in mind. And we have really relegated civics and history to the back burner. So we need to change that completely to have civics and American history be up front and center of our education.
Secondly, we need to be honest, there’s been a lot of criticism about our history in the past and there is a lot to be critical of, but we also need to recognize all the great things that America’s had. So a balanced view.
Specifically on 9/11, and this is the 20th anniversary, I’ve gone into schools and talk to students about 9/11 and asked them what happened. And they say, “Well, the twin towers fell.” And I go, “OK, but why?” And then you might get a couple kids say, “Well, planes.” And I said, “OK, but why?” And they go, “Well, they were terrorists.” I said, “OK.” And less kids even understand that. I say, “OK. What were the terrorists trying to do?” And then you get silence.
So, they hated America. They wanted to destroy us. They wanted to have an extremist Islamic state take over the entire world. That’s apparently not being taught in our schools. We need to do a much better job. And then to understand the heroes of United 93 and the first responders and how they gave their lives running up a tower that was burning. They’re very, very powerful stories.
And to get to your question, how do we get kids excited? America is a story. It’s an amazing story of freedom and liberty, of people willing to put themselves on the line, to give up their blood and treasure, to put it all there so that we could be free. And instead we have these caricatures of our Founders, of being racist, uncaring, just trying to protect their property. There is nothing further from the truth, some of them were racist, but nothing further from the truth that they didn’t put themselves on the line.
Many of the people that signed the Declaration of Independence were thrown in jails. They were stuck on prison ships. They got very ill. Some of their homes were utterly destroyed. They had to flee from oncoming British troops. Sam Adams and others were targeted for arrest and execution. They really put everything on the line.
And if you learn about those stories, you would have a greater appreciation of how unique the blessings of liberty are and that America was at the forefront of that, but we don’t teach that stuff. We teach these caricatures and criticisms without understanding the broader truth.
So we really need to do a much better job in our system to tell the real story of America. We’re not perfect and never will be, but we’re striving to be and that’s what makes all the difference.
Allen: Yeah. That idea of story is foundational to history because facts and figures, and like you say, we’re hearing so much negativity about our founding, about our history, but any piece of history is this very complex story full of humans who have gifts and talents and abilities and flaws. And we have to tell the whole story, that is critical.
So as you have done that, as you do through Patriot Week and through speaking at schools, as you have told young people that whole story of America’s history, as you’ve educated them on the founding documents, if you would just maybe share one or two stories of young people who you have found to be particularly impacted or families who have really benefited from the resources that you all at Patriot Week offer.
Warren: Well, there is a real hunger for this, and that is very encouraging. And I’ve had many students—I’ll give you one example, this was kind of silly, but I went into a school that my daughter was attending and I gave a Patriot Week speech.
We talked about the suffragettes and how the suffragettes worked so hard—from the 1840s, all the way to the 1920s—worked for women’s suffrage, the right to vote, how the 19th Amendment was adopted, how women … were the first people to protest during wartime. During World War I, they sat outside of the White House and said, “Give us our rights.” They went on hunger strikes, they were abused. And then finally we got the right to vote for women.
Students don’t know that story. They just think, “Well, of course, women always had the right to vote,” or, “Yeah, there was this amendment,” but they don’t really understand how hard it was for women to achieve women’s suffrage.
And then many of the students said, “I thought women’s suffrage was about women’s suffering, that they were hurting. Not that it meant that they could vote.” It was like, “Wow, we’ve gotten so far field that they don’t even know the basic terminology.”
So we’ve had a lot of people that have come up to us and really have appreciated our message, have been inspired by it.
We’ve had contests and other activities where students have been able to display their patriotism. One time I went into a school for Patriot Week and the whole school was red, white, and blue, up and down the corridors. You went into the French class and they were learning the Pledge of Allegiance in French. You went to the music class and they were doing patriotic songs. And what I heard from the educators was they love this stuff, but they never had a reason to do it, and so now they did. And that was very important.
Another example was, we had a 9/11 commemoration and firefighters came in and they were talking about 9/11 and what happened there. And then they got a call where they had to go to a fire. And so they ran out and the teacher and the students were like, “Wow, we just saw in action the bravery and courage of our first responders and what they have to go through every day.”
So there are a lot of stories and it’s unquestionably making a difference on a person-by-person basis.
Allen: Thank you so much for sharing that. That’s excellent. Well, and for all of our listeners, if you want to get involved and jump into Patriot Week and start pulling on these resources—whether it be in your own family, if you’re a teacher in your classroom, if you have a community group, a Rotary Club, you can get your community involved—you can visit patriotweek.org. All of the information is there.
Judge Warren, I also want to mention your book. You’ve written an excellent book called “America’s Survival Guide: How to Stop America’s Impending Suicide by Reclaiming Our First Principles and History.” You can get that book on Amazon, at your local bookstore. It’s very, very excellent.
Judge Warren, thank you so much for the work that you’re doing at Patriot Week, for taking action when your daughter pounded her fist on the table and said, “What are we going to do about this?” We really appreciate the work that you-all have been doing for so long. And especially that you’re doing this week during Patriot Week.
Warren: Well, thank you very much. It’s my pleasure. I love you guys, it’s a great program and we’re working on the same issues in different ways, and it’s so important, everything that you folks do at Heritage. And God bless you and God bless America.
Allen: Oh, thank you so much, Judge Warren, we really appreciate your time.
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