Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Words To Live By

I have recently returned to my regular, workaday life after spending two supremely pleasant weeks on holiday on Nantucket lolling about and having a delightful time.  It was a lovely, restful vacation, Dear Reader, with the added pleasure of meeting new friends and reconnecting with ones of years gone by.

While on Nantucket we rented a house that had a framed American flag hanging on one of its walls, that attracted my interest.  It included an old black and white photograph of a young boy glued to the middle of the field of forty eight stars, and the following words written upon its white stripes in an old-fashioned cursive script:

Self Control

I will control my tongue, and will not allow it to speak mean, vulgar or profane words.
I will control my temper, and will not get angry when people or things displease me.
I will control my thoughts, and will not allow a foolish wish to spoil a wise purpose.

What was this about, I wondered?  Upon closer inspection I saw that at the bottom of the flag was printed "Inspired by the National Institution of Moral Instruction.  Washington, D.C., 1918" and was signed by a certain "Betsy Phmock" in the same handwriting that appeared on the flag.

So, what was the National Institution of Moral Instruction?  After doing a bit of Internet research I found that it is alive and well today, and is now known as the Character Education Institute.  Its mission is to "creatively use every phase of school, family, work and business life to teach and learn values," citing Theodore Roosevelt's statement as its inspiration that "To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to create a menace to society."

The moral instruction movement, I learned, is strongly associated with Horace Mann, the nineteenth-century champion of the common school, and was further popularized around the time the framed flag was made in the then-widely-read McGuffey Readers children's books that promoted virtues of thrift, honesty, piety, and punctuality, among others admirable traits.

As far as I'm concerned, Dear Reader, we as a people here in these United States would be far better off today if such "virtues" were as valued and promoted as they were one hundred years ago, when Betsy Phmock embellished the little flag that inspired this post . . .

Don't you think so, too?

Photograph by Reggie Darling


  1. Welcome back from vacation! The sentiment on the flag is lovely, and, yes, there are certainly times I could use a "friendly" reminder like it in my home.

  2. I could not agree more. Wonderful post!

  3. An emphatic "Yes!" in reply to your question.

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich von B.

  4. Oh wow- that's so interesting! I love that framed piece. So many layers to the story.


  5. Dear Reggie,

    The framed flag is very interesting. You are right of course; if only people of the world held these values to heart, how much better a life we would all have.

    Feature: Artist Anne Harwell

  6. We must spread the word. I shall leave the comment on any blog... Horace Mann Rocks!

  7. Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to accomplish.

    Welcome back from your holiday! Hope it was everything you needed/wanted!


  8. Amen! A course in moral instruction, such as that espoused by Horace Mann, should be required before graduating from any public school or private school in America. I really was expecting you to say that you had been able to acquire this framed piece and bring it home with you. Is it a one of a kind original?

  9. I definitely agree! And while we are at it, I strongly believe that our schools should bring back civics. Our children need to understand the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

  10. I couldn't agree more, Reggie. I would also not be opposed to bringing back McGuffey Readers. I had a teacher many years ago who traveled a lot with her sister as they were both single. I remember her telling us that they had stayed at a motel once and the teacher having made the bed was asked why she would do that when there was maid service. Her reply has stayed with me for many years - "because I want them to know nice people stayed here". It seems you were fortunate to have stayed where nice people own the property and they in turn were lucky to have you.

  11. What a wonderful post and sentiment! I must share this!


  12. Darling,

    What a wonderful post and I love the sentiment! I must share it! We need more of these values today.

    Much love!

  13. Couldn't agree more. I just finished reading a marvelous book, "The Boys in the Boat." About the young men who won the 8 member skull in crew at the 1936 Olympics. Riviting story about their lives. These young men had character and moral and physical strenght that was a pleasure to read. You might enjoy it and feel good that once upon a time there were...

  14. I steadfastly encourage these rules among my family and friends!

    On another note, I read the AD feature spread on your beautiful home. Being a lifelong resident of the Hudson Valley, and having lived in many period homes, I congratulate you on your splendid restoration, and your steadfast stewardship of a Hudson Valley gem!

    I personally admire and have a deep appreciation of seventeenth and eighteenth century Dutch homes in the Hudson Valley. The towns of Athens, New Baltimore and Coeymans have extraordinary examples. Federal architecture is in no short supply in the Hudson Valley, but I must admit yours is a sparking diamond among them. Congratulations on your AD début, and welcome to the Hudson valley, I wish you the best in your future restoration endeavors.


    J. Van Rensselaer-Van Epps

  15. Yes, I'm in total agreement. I think this attitude in life goes hand-in-hand with "living with purpose." Thank you for making this message heard.

  16. ABSOLUTELY!YOung children today have no clue what morals are in my opinion.WHAT A FIND!

  17. Words to live by, indeed! As a parent of a young child, I do worry about such things as good old-fashioned morals and manners, and strive to teach her at every opportunity. I just hope other parents feel this is an important obligation to uphold too.

    Hoping you enjoyed your hols.

  18. Couldn't agree more Reggie. In Australia we are in the midst of yet another election campaign and nasty mean and even vitriolic comments are flying everywhere

  19. After reading all of the above comments, it's clear that we are all of the same mind. That flag and it's message is a treasure indeed!

  20. Excellent point. It's so easy to forget to treat others with the regard everyone deserves.

  21. Wonderful sentiment. And endeavoring to promote those words into action.


Please do comment! I welcome and encourage them, and enjoy the dialogue.

Related Posts with Thumbnails