Where Freedom Speaks is an educational project aimed at instructing elementary school students about the core principles of American democracy and how they are symbolized in the Capitol and embodied in the U.S. Congress.

By reenacting the laying of the Capitol’s cornerstone, the play tells the dramatic story of the building of the U.S. Capitol as a setting against which to teach children the responsibilities, as well as the rights, of American citizenship. As the narrator describes that historic day’s events, students act out the ceremony. Their actions make it clear that, just as the cornerstone is the foundation of the Capitol, individual freedom and responsibility are the foundations of our national spirit.

Where Freedom Speaks also looks at democracy in action today. It reminds students of freedoms they enjoy — freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of press — and the responsibilities they have to obey the laws, to vote, to participate in their government, to respect others and to work for peace.

ACT ONE, Scene 1

Music: “My Country Tis of Thee”

In Washington D.C., September 18, 1793, a magnificent procession marches to the Capitol site in the following order:

  • Surveyors
  • The Mayor of Georgetown
  • Company of Virginia Artillery
  • Three Commissioners of the Federal City
  • Stonecutters and Mechanics
  • Masons
  • Grand Master Pro Tempore
  • President George Washington
  • Two other Masonic leaders

Cheering citizens line the parade route. Music plays, drums beat and flags wave.

At the site for the Capitol, President George Washington, along with three other leaders, places the cornerstone on an engraved silver plate. He uses a ceremonial trowel to spread the mortar and a ceremonial gavel to fix the cornerstone in place*.

Members of the procession place corn — a symbol of plenty and nourishment, wine — a symbol of refreshment, and oil — a symbol of joy and gladness, on the cornerstone.

Set in a classroom, children complete work on a model of the Capitol, conversing about its history. Taking 70 years to complete the structure as we recognize it today, the building houses the 535 Members of Congress. The Dome of the Union, build during the Civil War, was a symbol of unity — that our nation would survive the war as one country. The Statue of Freedom is symbolic of the freedom which prevails inside the great halls.


Music: “Freedom Speaks”

As freedom speaks through the eyes and voices of children, we are reminded that we all share the responsibility to make America great.

The cast states a commitment to work for peace.

The play concludes with a challenge to create a peace filled country. This land belongs to each of us who share in its hopes and dreams. We must work together to let freedom and peace speak across the land.

Music: “You Are What Makes America Great” / “This Land Is Your Land”

Copyright Acknowledgments:

“You Are What Makes America Great,” From World of Music © 1988 by Silver Burdett Ginn, Simon and Schuster Elementary. Used by permission
”Let There Be Peace on Earth,” ©1955 by Jan-Lee Music. Renewed 1983. Used by permission.
”This Land Is Your Land,” Words and Music by Woodie Guthrie TRO-©-1956 (Renewed) 1958 (Renewed) 1970 Ludlow Music, Inc., New York, New York. Used by permission.

*Source: The Columbian Mirror and Alexandria Gazette, September 25, 1793.

Program Guide
Production Guide 
Lesson Guide

Answer Key

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