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President General 2005 - 2006: Roland G. Downing, PhD
He was raised in Nashville, Tennessee where he played high school football and was president of the student body. He graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1953 with a major in Organic Chemistry and a commission as an officer in the United States Navy. He served 3 years at sea during the Korean War before returning to civilian life. He remained in the naval Ready Reserve for over 20 years, retiring with the rank of Captain.
He earned his PhD Degree in Organic Chemistry in 1961 from Vanderbilt and became a research chemist with the DuPont Company at its Research complex in Wilmington, Delaware. He retired from the chemical industry in 1993. During his career he played an important role in the development of improved chemical processes for nylon manufacture. He became a lifelong friend with fellow chemist William C. Drinkard, Jr. who later joined the SAR and donated $1,000,000 to the Center for Advancing America’s Heritage. Dr. Drinkard saw “American exceptionalism” as key in the cultural education of future generations.
In 1952, he married Norma Wright. In 2009, their family comprised of 3 children, Roger, Pamela Sullivan and Lee Anne Dougherty, 8 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.
My Role as a Leader in the Sons of the American Revolution
When I joined the Delaware Society in 1989, I was proudly motivated by having recently discovered that I had patriot ancestors in South Carolina who fought for independence. I knew nothing about the SAR as an organization. I was also negatively motivated by the trend in the popular culture towards revisionism and multiculturalism - “isms” that would destroy American cultural unity. Our National Society had also become alarmed and had established a task force to “Preserve United States History.” I adopted the SAR as the organization that “could make a difference.” Since that time I have held essentially all the local and national leadership positions and tirelessly done my best to move the SAR from simply being a 100 year old lineage organization to one that practices outreach education using modern educational and communication techniques - one that employs professionals and produces content for modern media use.
Below are quotes and descriptions from my leadership that illustrate what I believe is a successful model for making the SAR a much more influential force in molding modern American culture.
SAR Magazine, Summer 2005 : “The 115th Congress in Louisville was a great success and delegates left with a sense of unity and optimism regarding the steps being taken to fulfill the missions set forth in our Constitution. Specifically I am referring to the ones concerning outreach education, “…to inspire … the community-at-large with a more profound reverence for the principles of the government founded by our forefathers … to foster true patriotism, to maintain and extend the institutions of American freedom … .”
“Many of our members recognize the critical role the SAR must play in teaching Americanism now that government agencies and schools are failing to do so. Fortunately, those of us in the SAR can still teach the value of unity in one American identity, and we can still teach the value of United States nationhood versus the impractical notions of multiculturalism and of world government. We can – and we will – teach that it is special and good to be an American.
“Our missions are clear and all of us are patriotic Americans who are immensely proud of what our ancestors accomplished. Unfortunately, only about 15% of membership participates in activities other than supporting the organization by paying dues. Everyone’s membership is highly valued, but I cannot help but think how much more effective our Society would be if the participatory portion grew to 30%. ….
“The SAR Foundation commissioned a study of our member’s perceptions of the SAR. The results were not a surprise, but they were very therapeutic - coming as they did from professionals who specialize in this type of work. The study indicated that approximately 85% of our members (“certificate members”) are not knowledgeable about the SAR and its activities. In general, we are all proud of our membership because of what our ancestor did, but only a small portion of us are proud of our membership because of what the SAR does today. The reason for this disparity could be that the value of active SAR membership has not been taught to all members. ….
“The Center for Advancing America’s Heritage (CAAH) is the name used to describe the proposed expanded headquarters complex. This includes our current headquarters building as well as the new library. It will house all headquarters functions including an expanded museum and library, the web communications equipment and the educational outreach staff. The purpose of the Center is to teach Americans the modern significance of our Revolutionary history and to perpetuate American freedom.”
The Distinguished Patriotic Leadership Award - We established this new award to further our influence in the community. It was given twice during my term - to the San Diego Padres NL Baseball Organization and to the National Museum of Patriotism in Atlanta. The award is always given in a prestigious ceremony at the recipients headquarters to the chief executive and owner in full view of the employees. The local state or chapter organization nominates the recipient and arranges for the ceremony. An ancillary purpose is for the NSSAR to develop a relationship with the owner, usually a person of considerable wealth and influence with the hope of furthering our mission. For example, we met Nick Snider owner of the National Museum of Patriotism who provided invaluable insight concerning the location of our Center. He was in the planning stages of moving his museum to a higher foot-traffic area in Atlanta. I remember his advice well, “if you are interested in influencing people with your museum and educational galleries remember three things -location, location and location!“
SAR Magazine, Winter 2006 - “…. (For our mission statement, see above.) Our prophetic Compatriot Founders wrote these phrases a hundred years ago. They are in our Congressional Charter and are signed by Compatriot Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States. All our educational, historical and patriotic programs are based on the above charges.
“Today the SAR is on the front lines of a culture war between, on one hand, patriotic citizens who believe America is a force for good in this world and who are inspired by the lessons of our founding and on the other hand, those who opt out of the mainstream culture, are destructively critical and attempt to soothe us with talk of “impossible dreams” such as multiculturalism and world government. These naysayers reject teaching our youth about the subjects in the above paragraph. Instead, they revise history to suit their insidious agendas, teach feelings (guilt/blame) in place of facts and burden students with doubt without offering viable alternatives. Unfortunately they are the thought leaders in most of our country’s educational systems. This is why the educational mission of the SAR and other patriotic private organizations has risen to top priority in recent years. Winning this culture war is the major justification for the Six (now read “Ten”) Million Dollar Capital Campaign. …. “
SAR Magazine, Spring 2005 - “Organizational Changes Envisioned - Success at this new role for the National Society will require some minor organizational changes. It requires our members to think of National in a different way. You can think of it as a culture change of sorts. The National Society will be producing educational outreach programs, staffed by professional educators and communicators and supported in part by grants.
“Let me summarize the key points I have made. Times have changed and we must adapt to this modern reality. Our Country needs us more than ever before, but to be successful in our mission we must adopt new methods. These new methods must rely on modern mass media techniques, which require management of a centralized staff of professionals. The idea is converting the National Society into an educational institution of sorts. The tool is educational outreach programs to students and teachers and the community-at-large via a dedicated interactive website. The name of this institution is The Center for Advancing America’s Heritage.”
I would like to conclude this report on my leadership role in the SAR by quoting a former President General, the late B. Rice Aston in his “I bid you farewell” message before his death.
“These words dictate what the Sons of the American Revolution ought to be, what it can be, and what it must be: the preserver and standard bearer of our heritage and a humble messenger to the world of the blessings of freedom, liberty, and opportunity.”