July 1, 2019

On the Fourth of July, we celebrate having this exceptional nation and the freedoms it gives us, but we must always remember that we have those things because of all the soldiers who put their lives on the line to secure them for us, from Revolutionary times forward.  There’s a story I love to tell that illustrates that for young people.

When I was Governor of Arkansas, I got to know an outstanding high school teacher in Little Rock named Martha Cothren.  She was one of my original Huck’s Heroines, and I was always telling her it was my goal to make her one of the most famous teachers in America, because she’d be such a great example to all teachers.  Here’s just one reason why. 

Martha became concerned that many of her kids didn’t fully appreciate their precious American freedoms.  So she prepared an unusual lesson for them.  On the first day of school, the kids shuffled back into class only to discover that it was completely empty.  Not a desk in sight.  So they asked, “Miss Cothren, where are the desks?”  She replied, “You don’t get your desk until you can tell me how you earn it.” 

The kids were stunned, but they started trying to guess how they earned their desks.  By getting good grades?  No, that’s not the answer.  By behaving in class?  No, that’s not it.  The first period ended with the kids leaning against the walls or sitting on the floor, but they never had figured out how they earn their desks. 

Well, in trooped the second period class.  They were greeted with the same empty room and the same question they couldn’t answer.  This went on all day, and by lunchtime, word was circulating all over school that Miss Cothren had gone crazy.

Finally, during the last class of the day, she told the students, “Okay, nobody’s figured out how you earn your desks, so I’ll tell you.”  She opened the door, and in walked 27 military veterans, each one carrying a desk.  As they quietly placed them in neat rows, Martha said, “Kids, you don’t have to earn your desks because these guys earned them for you.”  She said you get free desks, free books and a free education, but it wasn’t free to these veterans…or to their friends who never came home from the wars they fought to give us all that freedom.  She said, “Whenever you sit in that desk, try to remember who earned it for you.” 

After that lesson, Martha was approached by one of those veterans, a news photographer, with tears in his eyes.  He told her that when he returned from Vietnam, he was cursed and spat on, and made to feel ashamed of his service.  He said, “Today is the first day since I’ve been home that I felt like someone appreciated what I did.” 

Unfortunately, there can’t be a Martha Cothren in every school.  But other teachers and parents can make sure their kids know who earned their desks for them.  And we can all make it a point to say “thank you” to current and former members of the U.S. military.  Seems to me, the 4th of July would be a great time to start. 

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Pat Reeder’s 4th of July Jukebox: “The Americans” – Gordon Sinclair

(Pat Reeder is a writer for “Huckabee” and our resident pop culture historian. Read more at )

Gordon Sinclair was one of the most unlikely recording stars of all time.  A Canadian writer/reporter, he was so annoyed in 1973 at hearing that the Red Cross was out of funds, he wrote an editorial about all that America does for the world.  He didn’t think it was anything special, but public reaction was overwhelming.  WWDC-AM in Washington, DC, started playing a reading of it with “Bridge Over Troubled Water” in the background, which inspired the release of Sinclair’s own recording, a 45 on Avco under the title, “The Americans (A Canadian's Opinion.)”  All proceeds went to the Red Cross.  It rose to #24 on the charts, making Sinclair, at 73, the second-oldest artist ever to make the Billboard Top 40, behind 75-year-old Moms Mabley’s “Abraham, Martin and John.”  It was revived for a bit after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrinia, but it needs to be heard again now.

By the way, you might be more familiar with this version by Byron MacGregor of CKLW radio, which got higher on the charts.  It was an unauthorized version that Sinclair wasn’t happy about.  Still, the sentiments can’t be repeated too many times.

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Comments 1-24 of 24

  • Sharon Schroeder

    07/02/2019 10:16 PM

    May I have permission to copy your American heroes Martha Cothren article. I would like to send it to my family that is very supportive of our military, past and present.
    Thank you!

  • Neil Wilson

    07/02/2019 04:13 PM

    I really appreciate reading the story of Martha's classroom again. That is an awesome story to reread. We have much to appreciate as Americans. As a teacher, I'm even more inspired to inspire my own students. Huck, thank you. I wish you had a chance to come visit your Republican teachers at the NEA convention again. You are missed and beloved.

  • Neil Wilson

    07/02/2019 04:07 PM

    Great recording, but the song on Gordon Sinclair's version is the Battle Hymn of the Republic not Bridge Over Troubled Waters.

  • Anne turner

    07/02/2019 03:49 PM

    Good for Sarah. You and her mother, raised a smart, secure, attractive woman who is not afraid to stand by her standards and beliefs. AOC will eventually pass put of popularity. She is that kind that wears off after a time. There is no depth. Her university must be embarrassed as she shows her ignorance daily. I can forgive liberals for blasting POTUS as he leads with his chin. There is no forgiveness for piling on his talented daughter, not your’s for that matter. Are these people nuts? Hey, wouldn’t we all like the tooth fairy to provide a good life? That’s just not the way humans operate. Perhaps this who want open borders so that all can come in, with free everything, should Volunteer the blue states to take everyone. I do feel badly for those folks trying for a better life but I simply don’t know how we absorb these large numbers of people. Genuine asylum seekers should be protected by us but Mexico need workers as well as some of the other countries south of the border. Relatives tell them how they live in this country and that seems like luxury. Yes, .i am all for immigration and I could care less whether. You are brown, white, or purple for that matter. As was famously said what counts is the content of your character. My cleaning lady and friend adopted as a late teen from Mexico is about to become a citizen. She is a wonderful, and very hard working person. Hooray for her and I mean it.

  • Paul Cobb

    07/02/2019 01:57 PM

    How can I as one person get the Congress to see what’s truly needs to be accomplished to assist us the citizens instead constantly bickering and arguing among themselves and getting nothing done.

  • Roger L Mell

    07/02/2019 11:55 AM

    Nike Co. has recalled an issue of shoes with a Betsy Ross flag on the heel because Colin Kaepernick thinks they are offensive.
    Having walked through the cemeteries' of France and Belgium and seen the grave stones of those thousands of young men who gave their lives so mr. crapnick could make millions playing a game and getting more for an endorsement from Nike.
    I recommend that the US public boycott all Nike products because we are offended at their ignorance and insensitivity.

  • Stephen Russell

    07/02/2019 11:33 AM

    teacher Martha: Good story for the ages, must tell at PTA etc.
    Awesome story.
    So radical, compelling. Must on your show & CBN 700 Club

  • Keethlyn Fletcher

    07/02/2019 10:49 AM

    I am the daughter of a 30 year Marine who spent nearly 4 years in a Japanese prison camp during Well.
    I want to thank ALL members of our military for their service to this country and especially my dad. RIP dad. Your fellow Patriots are watching.

  • Jerry Korba

    07/02/2019 09:17 AM

    How does a question are you a citizen of the US not allowed I am a citizen and I admit that I am to anyone that might ask. What is the problem the answer is Yes or no or I am in the process of becoming one. Roberts and 4 other supreme court Judges have a problem with that. What is the problem to ask that question? Is it political unlawful is it to use against illegals? I have no reservation to answer that question. So what is the problem Roberts is he related to James Comey and his ideas of common sense Roberts thought Obama Care was a good idea what strings are attached to Roberts for him to be against common sense?

  • Norman R Able

    07/02/2019 09:13 AM

    Thanks for this timely article, & challenge to us all by your hero teacher! We are very blessed to live in America where we can worship God openly & freely & enjoy the conveniences of our affluent society. Our nation has been blessed as none other & the reason, I am convinced, is because our nation was founded by people seeking God & freedom of worship - not gold as many others. Our founding Fathers wrote freedom of worship into our constitution. The phrase "In God We trust" was more than a slogan & prayer was openly shared as the documents of freedom & government were given birth. We have a great heritage - much for which to thank & praise God. Our family makes July 4th a time when we thank God for our enormous freedoms, those who have given their lives to make it possible, and pray for our nation and its leaders. And we don't take these freedoms for granted any more.

  • Li Yu Chang

    07/02/2019 08:24 AM

    Bernie Sanders should have learned something about how a business works from his brother, Colonel Sanders. His 70% tax rate plus the 30% for the mortgage payment that the average American spends monthly would leave exactly zero for the car, the gas, the food, medical, the clothes, tuition, entertainment/vacations, or anything else needed including savings. We would become a nation of renters as most everyone would default on their mortgages and the banking system would collapse. There should be a basic math proficiency test before someone can run for office. Until then we have to listen about more plans that don't add up.

  • Shelley Jordan

    07/02/2019 04:13 AM

    Thank you for sharing about Miss Martha Cothren and how she was a fabulous strategic teacher that strongly touched so many lives in such an important way that is just not happening anymore. God Bless her, you, veterans, military, and America!

  • Kenna Maccalum

    07/02/2019 01:43 AM

    Thank you it's been a long time since I heard this record. I have always liked it.

  • Anne Amato

    07/02/2019 01:29 AM

    Thank you for this column, and most particularly for thanking our veterans. Both my children are veterans...and my son-in-law....they went through some stressful and tragic events during the Iraq conflict and also 9/11.
    I realize this recording is from "way back" in 1973....but sent them your column with the link to the Canadian recording tonight.....
    I have often had this thought over the years....all the USA did during WWI and WWII and the rebuilding following....and all the conflicts thereafter....all for others in the they could have freedom. we ever even hear an OFFICIAL "Thankyou"? Not really.
    Yes...we still have problems....and other nations have joined us on occasion.....but....this country and our military members gave...and still gives....more to the world for the sake of individual freedom and liberty than any other nation on earth.

  • william fuhrer

    07/02/2019 12:47 AM

    Kamala Harris might not want to street fight with Biden. Kamala probably could write HOW TO SUCCEED IN POLITICS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING due to her association with Willie Brown. Sacramento Bee probably has a few political cartoons

  • Toni DeFronzo

    07/02/2019 12:12 AM

    Although I very much appreciated the beautiful story of the thoughtful and courageous teacher, who taught her students to respect and appreciate our wonderful veterans, very few teachers could teach that lesson today, without getting fired.

  • Linda Walker

    07/01/2019 10:58 PM

    My taught American History and was dept chair, my dad was US Army then airborne for 5 years till the end of WWII and came home and went back to being a volunteer fireman to age 63 when he retired and moved. My brother and I are that generation born just after the war. Looking back, I can see people 10 years younger than me are virtually a different generation. 25 years and it's a gap as big as the Grand Canyon. People have forgotten the lessons of the past, even 9-11. They'd rather give 'FREE STUFF' to illegals than house and provide healthcare for our vets. I am deeply ashamed of what the Democrats have become. I'm more ashamed of the way people justify violence and assault based of political beliefs that used to be argued out, not a brawl.

    If Trump has done one thing, he has reminded us it's ok to feel patriotic, something I was taught while others have been taught to be ashamed of American Exceptionalism. The sad part is, only half the country gets the message.

    Happy 4th of July!

  • Tom Kessinger

    07/01/2019 10:44 PM

    Your article about the school teacher in Little Rock caught my eye. When i lived in Seffner Fl, a teacher at Armwood High School started a class in the History Department called the History of the Viet Nam war. That class Taught by Mr. Bruce Burnham was to gather information from veterans of that war and create a book documenting the experiences of the veterans. Mr. Burnham was himself a Vietnam Veteran and he understood what we went through when we returned from our deployment and were greeted in the San Francisco Airport, where most of us went to get transportation home to see our families before continuing on to our new assignments. This was where we were cursed and spit on by the anti war protesters who gathered there. Like so many of our service members when i came back i suffered from PTSD with frequent nightmares and wondered what i had done wrong and why people didn't like me. In preparing his class for conducting the intervews the first thing they were required to do was to welcome the Veteran home to make them relax and to let them see that their service was appreciated. Well to make a long story short after meeting with those kids my frequent nightmares began to abate and I began to see that my service was appreciated. Bruce Burnham and his Class of high schoolers were my heroes of the Viet Nam War just like Ms Cothren was to the young men with the desks

  • Stephen Bussa

    07/01/2019 10:10 PM

    Enjoyed the reading by a thinking Canadian! Thanks for sharing. Happy 4th.

  • Joe Jones

    07/01/2019 10:05 PM

    America has always helped other people in other countries, but other countries do not offer help to America. I'm proud to be an American even though I now live in Ecuador. The illegal aliens who come to the American border are seeking our help. None of them are coming to help America. It is time for America to help the American people before we help everybody else.

  • George Scott

    07/01/2019 09:48 PM

    Great Edition.

    Thank you Mike

  • Gerald Muckelrath

    07/01/2019 09:43 PM

    Thank you Veterans, and Teachers that capture the minds of our youth with truth.
    May God bless the United States of America.

  • Pat Owen

    07/01/2019 09:40 PM

    I like your news reporting. Thanks. One thing I miss is the Facebook posts as I a not a fan.

    God bless and enjoy the July 4th.

  • Rebecca Johnson

    07/01/2019 09:35 PM

    That was a very good lesson. So the students could appreciate sacrifices that soldiers make for them. Keeping our freedom!