A Look at 9/29/1789 and the Close of the First Session of the U.S. Congress

1789 was a very exciting time to be alive. The French Revolution famously began with the storming of the Bastille, the element uranium was accidentally discovered in Germany, and—let’s not forget—Thomas Jefferson returned home from overseas, the first macaroni machine to enter the U.S. in tow. 1789 was the end of the world as a lot of people knew it, but it also marked a very fundamental beginning.

As of today, two hundred and twenty-five years ago, the first session of the United States Congress officially came to a close. Haunting the hallways of the Senate building in those days were figures as legendary as the indelible John Adams and Robert Morris who left his signature on both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. In a period of six short months, legislation as monumental and fundamental as the creation of a system of courts and the establishment of the State Department, then dubbed the Department of Foreign Affairs, was passed, the one act followed shortly after by another.

Image from: Wikimedia.

Jefferson’s drawing of a macaroni machine from 1787. If you want to check out his pasta recipe click here. Image from: Wikimedia.

It is easy to forget when we look back at this incredibly idealized point in our history, at the semi-mythical lives of these important figures in our past that we perhaps associate so closely with one another, that these men were not, in fact, so inclined to see eye-to-eye in terms of politics. Thomas Jefferson’s vision of America’s future was almost diametrically opposed to Alexander Hamilton’s. And Alexander Hamilton’s life would be cut tragically short fifteen years later due to a political rivalry with Aaron Burr that escalated to the point where he died dueling Burr on the coast of New Jersey. From the onset, a great political fear was factionalism and disunity.

Yet despite individual- and larger party differences, the first session of the United States Congress was as productive as it was. And so was the second after that. And the third after that. And so on.

1789 was an exciting time to be alive because of the spirit of unity and progress that bound the young United States together despite moments of political tension. It drove forward real, tangible political momentum. 1789 was a moment of creation, the moment of defining the American identity, a definition that has not remained static but continues to change and to evolve with its history. It is not the straightest line from 1789 to 2014, but here we are again. In any case, I know I’ll be celebrating the 225th anniversary of pasta in the United States.


From the Library of Congress (http://goo.gl/D8zMb1http://goo.gl/6xd6Q3)

From Monticello (http://goo.gl/l4Ey6m)


Online Courses Directory


Online Courses Directory

Online Courses Directory

Free and comprehensive online resource with a collection of open college course that spans videos, audio lectures, and notes by professors from U.S. and World Universities. There are also several technology courses available such as mobile application development.

(part of description from J. Parker and Online Courses website)

American English




Welcome to American English, a resource for teaching and learning about American English and culture! Here you will find a variety of engaging materials and resources for your own professional development and for use in your classes with students. Both teachers and students will find new ways to practice English and learn more about the United States. Download podcasts, read about American culture, learn about American holidays, etc.  A great and free resource  by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State.

(description from American English website)

Trace Effects | by americanenglish.state.gov


Trace Effects

Trace Effects

Play and learn!

Can you help Trace?  Help Trace, the game’s main character, a university student from the year 2045 who has accidentally traveled back in time to the present. In order to get home, he must complete a challenging mission to change the future for the better by helping six different young people accomplish great things and have a positive impact on the future.

Trace Effects is a collaborative English language video game experience for students ages 12-16. Learn English and explore American culture through puzzles, games, and adventures in an interactive world.

(description from Trace Effects website)

Check out the video game trailer below

57th Presidential Inauguration Website | by Senate.gov


57th Presidential Inauguration

57th Presidential Inauguration

On January 21, Barack Obama will take the oath of President for the second time.  Find out more about the Inauguration Ceremony of the U.S. President, facts and firsts, traditions, unusual events, etc.

For more than two hundred years America’s citizens have witnessed the Inauguration ceremonies of the President and Vice President of the United States. From the first Inauguration of George Washington, in New York City, in 1789, to today, as we prepare for the 57th quadrennial Presidential Inauguration, the swearing-in ceremonies represents both national renewal and continuity of leadership. As each president has offered a vision for America’s future, we reflect on the heritage of Inaugurations past. The 2013 Inaugural Ceremonies theme, “Faith in America’s Future” commemorates the United States’ perseverance and marks the 150th anniversary of the placement of the Statue of Freedom atop the U.S. Capitol dome.

(part of description from inaugural.senate.gov website)

Common Sense


Common Sense

Common Sense

Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology.

According to the site, [they] exist because […] children spend more time with media and digital activities than they do with their families or in school, which profoundly impacts their social, emotional, and physical development . As a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization, [they] provide trustworthy information and tools, as well as an independent forum, so that families can have a choice and a voice about the media they consume.

(part of description from Common Sense website – thanks to Magia Krause for pointing it out)

Watch a short video below explaining what the site is about:

How to Be a Better Student | by WikiHow


Hot to be a better student

Hot to be a better student

WikiHow has put together a guide for young students, with 8 basic -but necessary- steps that each student should take in order to improve performance. Some of them like “pay attention during class” and “study your homework” are basic, but they are links on a chain that requires commitment and devotion to produce results.

There are also tips, warnings, and other links on the subject.

Books That Shaped America | National Book Festival – Library of Congress


Books That Shaped America

Books That Shaped America

The Library of Congress, the world’s largest repository of knowledge and information, began a multiyear “Celebration of the Book” with an exhibition on “Books That Shaped America.” The initial books in the exhibition are displayed on the site.

“This list is a starting point,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. “It is not a register of the ‘best’ American books – although many of them fit that description. Rather, the list is intended to spark a national conversation on books written by Americans that have influenced our lives, whether they appear on this initial list or not.”

As it happens, today (September 5, 2012) is the 55th anniversary of the defining novel of the 1950s’ Beat generation, as described by its author.  Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is one of the most important literary works of the second half of the 20th century. The book is a semiautobiographical tale of a bohemian cross-country adventure, narrated by character Sal Paradise. Kerouac’s odyssey has influenced artists such as Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, and Hunter S. Thompson and films such as Easy Rider. On the Road has achieved a mythic status in part because it portrays the restless energy and desire for freedom that makes people take off to see the world.

(part of description from LOC website)

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