My grandfather and I stood outside Walt Disney’s “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.” “Every student needs to see that,” he repeated a few times. “That needs to be required learning.”

We had just watched Disney’s phenomenal tribute to the 16th president of the United States, which first premiered at the New York World’s Fair in 1964, and we were both moved. The show is unashamedly pro-American and celebratory of our past in a way that must mortify modern Disney execs. But that’s why we love it so much.

My grandfather is a big advocate for passing the American story down to the next generation. Growing up, I often heard him say trips to D.C. should be a prerequisite for graduating high school. He wanted students to experience first-hand the beauty of America they weren’t being taught about in the classroom.

Now, he had added “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” to the list.

But for as much as we loved the show, we were also slightly depressed. The theater had been empty. An overcrowded park bristling with people — yet precisely no one seemed interested in paying their respects to America’s great national heritage.

“This is what happens when you get away from the foundations,” my grandfather observed. We, as a nation, have forgotten and lost appreciation for the past. And now, as Lincoln himself warned, we risk destroying ourselves from the inside out.

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Exactly one month later, on Passover, I was fittingly reminded of these recent events with my grandfather. A vital component of the Passover Seder is Maggid, Hebrew for “narrate.” The ritual derives from Exodus 12:26-27 which states: “And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service [the Passover]? you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses….’”

Maggid is the storytelling portion of a Passover meal, during which the account of the Exodus from Egypt is recounted. As Exodus 12 suggests, the ritual serves the all-important purpose of reminding each new generation of the Jews’ past. As Dennis Prager said, “When a people stops telling its children its story, it will cease to be that people…. One of the biggest reasons the Jews have survived for three thousand years is this: that every year… they have told the story [of Exodus] to their kids.”

We must remember why God’s chosen people ended up in slavery, to begin with: because, as Exodus 1:8 famously records, “there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph [the Jewish leader who first brought his people to Egypt].”

In other words, forgetting the past results in tyranny.

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America today is in desperate need of a national Maggid.

Far from tarnishing our ancestors, we ought to be telling their story again and again, making it our own. We ought to repeat it until our children know and are grateful for where we have come from. If we don’t, we risk losing everything.

Without an awareness of our history, we have no memory to guide us. We are left to wander aimlessly toward some unknown, undesirable end. Future critics very well may note of us, “there arose up a new generation that knew not George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, and they quickly lost their way.” Thus is our fate for as long as history books go unread and statues are thrown down.

But the answer has been with us for over three thousand years. The remedy is in Passover and Maggid — the remedy is in telling the story.

Jakob Fay is a staff writer for the Convention of States Project, a project of Citizens for Self-Governance.

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