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County to install founding documents display

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NASHVILLE — Nash County is moving ahead on building a permanent outdoor display of the three “charters of freedom” at the county courthouse.

County commissioners voted unanimously Monday to proceed after a second detailed presentation by officials of Foundation Forward, a nonprofit education organization working to promote civics education and preserve American history.

The foundation, founded and based in western North Carolina, works with communities to build in high-traffic areas the outdoor settings of brick and concrete which display 60-pound metal reproductions of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights under bulletproof glass.

“We do not call them monuments because every freedom we have comes from these documents,” said David Streator, the foundation’s educational director. “They are alive and well. They are not dead. A monument by definition honors a person, place or event that is no longer with us.”

Ron Lewis, the foundation’s treasurer and spokesman for the organization, said many citizens, particularly young people, don’t get to Washington to look at the nation’s founding documents.

“You’re going to know that the people who founded this country penned those documents and how moving and how stirring it is to your soul,” Lewis said. “We want to give that experience and provide it for young people in the country.”

The document replicas are placed so that they can be seen not only by passersby but by schoolchildren who can be bused on field trips. The foundation works with the school system to provide educational materials and hold events, such as performances of the “1776” musical, “so future generations can understand the rights and privileges our founding fathers intended.”

The outdoor setting will also include a time capsule for which residents will be asked to contribute items. The time capsule will be opened in 2087, Lewis said.

Lewis told commissioners that Nash County “is the first county we’ve been invited to come into based on an initial connection with an educator. To me, that speaks volumes and exemplifies what your educational system is all about.”

The educator who invited the group was Renny Taylor, a history teacher at Nash Central High School who is currently working on a lesson plan to go along with the display. He said Monday he has reached out to Southern Nash and Northern Nash high schools about participating.

“You have a beautiful setting,” Lewis said. It’s a wonderful setup you have, a treasure. Your location is tailor-made for our charters of freedom.”

He assured the commissioners the display would not cost any tax dollars — “It’s all private money,” he stressed — but he said the foundation did welcome any in-kind assistance possible from the county, usually about $6,000 worth involved in the construction. He said the foundation helps raise $13,000 to cover the rest of the expenses. Grants also help provide funds.

He asked commissioners not only for permission to build the display but also to recommend residents for a steering committee, particularly ones with a construction background, to work with the foundation in building it. The board agreed.

“I think it is a great idea,” said Commissioner Fred Belfield, who added he wanted students from all the schools to see the documents.

County Manager Zee Lamb said he had found a location for the display, a grassy area between the county’s old and new courthouse, and would work with the foundation and steering committee on the project. The setting will also include a three-flag flagpole behind it, he said.

In response to a question by board Chairman Robbie Davis Lewis said the timeline to complete the project would be 60 to 90 days.

“When we dedicate your charters of freedom,” he added, “we’re going to have an incredible day.”

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