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Life In the Carolina's Podcast

Jan 22, 2020

On this episode of the Life in the Carolinas podcast, Vance Patterson, founder of Foundation Forward, talks about his advocacy to bring the Charters of Freedom to communities across the whole United States in the form of installations—or what Vance calls “Settings”. The Burke County native is a serial entrepreneur, having started 21 companies over the years. Two of them made the list for the Inc. 500 Fastest-Growing Companies; and Vance himself twice became a finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year in the Southeast region.

While they always considered themselves patriots, Vance and his wife Mary Jo never had the Charters of Freedom at the forefront of their minds before establishing their non-profit. In fact, Vance had learned almost nothing about civics or government in school, despite having had a passion for history.

However, it was after a close reading of the actual Declaration of Independence—with particular emphasis on the signatures of the Founding Fathers and the words “We the People”—that the spirit behind the founding of the United States truly entered the Pattersons’ hearts. At that point, they sought to duplicate their experience with others, starting in Burt County. After two years, “Your Charters of Freedom Settings” was launched to a great reception. The Pattersons took this as a cue to continue the project in more locations.

Vance emphasizes the fact that he refers to the installation as “settings” as opposed to a “monument”. A monument, he defines, is a memorial honoring an event or a person. Vance states, “This is not a memorial. This is an active, hands-on educational supplement for a school's curriculum.” He envisions teachers bringing their students on field trips to the Charters of Freedom Settings in their local community. “We don’t just put these in and walk away,” continues Vance. Foundation Forward has an ongoing education program where materials are sent out to teachers who have visited the Settings.

Vance’s short-term goal is to establish the Settings in all 100 counties in North Carolina, as well as in all 46 counties in South Carolina. By doing this, they hope to bring widespread awareness to the project, to get other states to say, “What is going on in the Carolinas?” Vance will then commence his long-term goal: place Your Charters of Freedom Settings to as many of the 3,242 counties in the United States as possible within the next ten years. He imagines future generations referring to their Constitution and their Bill of Rights—those that they grew up with right in their home community, and not just the original ones in Washington D.C.

Vance looks to Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, both of whom were major proponents of education. “These two believe that in order to have a free and independent country,” says Vance, “you must understand how government works. You cannot control what you do not understand.”