“And [Joshua] spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? Then ye shall let your children know…” 
Now, I know that the holiday season is always filled with families, gatherings, and more than its fair share of stress. But compared to the final exam week which you have just endured, it is pure rest and relaxation.
Maybe you’ll kick back and remember what it was like to read for pleasure. Or, more likely if you were like me, looking at a book is the farthest thing from your mind. Maybe you will spend the entire break napping. I am sure you will want to spend time with family and your hometown friends. Or, you want to be able to sit back and relax and watch a good movie.
Well, if a film is your plan, here are a few recommendations. Some are political. Some are holiday based. But they are all among my favorites.
The American President
This is without a doubt one of my favorite films. I show it to every American Government class that I teach. Most of the time, the guys get annoyed that I make them watch a “chick flick.” But, they always find it interesting by the end. It covers nearly every aspect of government (okay, it leaves the judiciary out) and shows how they work together. Did I mention that it also has amazing dialogue written by Aaron Sorkin and stars Michael Douglas, Martin Sheen, and Michael J. Fox? Take my word for it, watch it!
America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free”.
When most people think of the term “Amazing Grace,” they think of the song. I would venture to guess that most people do not know the song’s – or the composer’s – history. “I once was blind, but now I see” is only the beginning. This film is the story of William Wilberforce’s struggle to end the slave trade in Great Britain. It was a difficult and lifelong struggle. But, it does serve as a valuable reminder that a just cause is worth the effort. I will be honest. This is a difficult film to watch. But trust me, the ending is more than worth it.
When people speak of great men, they think of men like Napoleon – men of violence. Rarely do they think of peaceful men. But contrast the reception they will receive when they return home from their battles. Napoleon will arrive in pomp and in power, a man who’s achieved the very summit of earthly ambition. And yet his dreams will be haunted by the oppressions of war. William Wilberforce, however, will return to his family, lay his head on his pillow and remember: the slave trade is no more.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
This is one of the ones I know I’m going to watch over the break. It should be shown to every political science freshman seminar course. It should be required viewing to every opening session of Congress and every state legislative body. The plot is well known: A naive man who loves his country is appointed to the United States Senate to be the puppet of his state’s political machine. The only problem is he is loyal to his principles and not the machine. So, the machine tries it’s best to destroy him. But, he doesn’t give up without a fight.
Get up there with that lady that’s up on top of this Capitol dome, that lady that stands for liberty. Take a look at this country through her eyes if you really want to see something. And you won’t just see scenery; you’ll see the whole parade of what Man’s carved out for himself, after centuries of fighting. Fighting for something better than just jungle law, fighting so’s he can stand on his own two feet, free and decent, like he was created, no matter what his race, color, or creed. That’s what you’d see.
This is a holiday classic. One of the several films made from the music of the failed (at the time) Holiday Inn, it features the crooning of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney and the dance steps of Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen Rohe. As someone who was raised on the old musicals, this is a cornerstone of my childhood holiday experience. While it’s not exactly political, it is a good heartwarming way to spend a few hours.
I am not satisfied with the conduct of this division. Some of you men are under the impression having been at Anzio entitles you not to wear neckties. Well you’re wrong. Neckties will be worn in this area! And look at the rest of your appearance. You’re a disgrace to the outfit. You’re soft! You’re sloppy! You’re unruly! You’re undisciplined!… And I never saw anything look so wonderful in my whole life. Thank you all!
What are some of your favorite holiday or political films?