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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Henderson

Empowering the Youth: Paul Hemphill's American Education Defenders Unveiled

Youth being inspired
Empowering the Youth through history

Setting the Stage:

Michelle introduces Paul and highlights his successful career in marketing and advertising, emphasizing his philosophical acumen. She mentions Paul's notable books, including "Why You're Already a Leader" and "Inspiration for Teens," transformed into captivating video and audio programs. Paul's work is centered around the Battle of Gettysburg, drawing vital life lessons from this historical event. He is also the driving force behind the American Education Defenders, a nonprofit aiming to nurture patriotism and self-belief among the youth through engaging stories from America's past.

Unveiling Paul's Mission: Empowering the Youth

Paul shares the inspiration behind the American Education Defenders, citing his personal experience with his teenage sons who found history boring. Frustrated by the lack of engaging resources, Paul took matters into his own hands. He emphasizes the importance of emotional connections in learning history and how storytelling can bridge the gap. Paul's approach is to make history relevant to individuals, focusing on the lessons that can be applied to one's life.

Michelle praises Paul's efforts in making history accessible and relatable, especially for high school students. She commends his dedication to enriching education through videos, digital flashcards, and thought-provoking questions. The discussion highlights the need for a creative and imaginative approach to teaching history, breaking free from the constraints of standardization.

The Transformation:

Paul shares how the transformation of his book "Why You're Already a Leader" into a video series, titled "America's 52 Stories," was prompted by the changing landscape of student engagement. He talks about the impact of screens on teenagers' reading habits and how videos became an effective medium to reach them. Paul emphasizes the role of parents in guiding their children through the accompanying questions, creating a bonding mechanism and fostering discussions on historical events.

Michelle acknowledges the positive impact of Paul's program on parent-child relationships and encourages teachers to adopt similar creative approaches. She draws parallels between Paul's work and the American Girl Dolls concept, highlighting the importance of making history engaging for children.

Paul expresses his desire to expand beyond Gettysburg and create videos and stories about diverse Americans from different eras. He appeals for support and donations to help fund this ambitious project, emphasizing the urgency of addressing the current gaps in historical education.

A Glimpse into Paul's Passion:

The conversation shifts towards Paul's passion for Gettysburg, where he explains the significance of the historical event and its metaphorical representation of human nature. He shares a poignant story of a 15-year-old girl during the Battle of Gettysburg, illustrating the power of empathy and leadership even in the most challenging circumstances.

Michelle and Paul discuss the importance of character development in historical education, moving beyond memorizing dates and battles. They stress the need for students to connect emotionally with history and see it as a source of inspiration.

Closing with Abraham Lincoln:

Michelle concludes the podcast by asking Paul to share an inspirational message. Paul quotes Abraham Lincoln's powerful words, encouraging listeners to think anew and act anew to save their country. Michelle praises the message and references a T-shirt she saw with the phrase "I Miss Abe," connecting it to Paul's admiration for the historical figure.

The Wheel of Surprises:

In a lighthearted segment, Michelle spins the wheel and asks Paul about any secret talent he might have. Paul humorously mentions that he's an open book, leaving no room for secrets. He reveals his wish to play the piano or the violin, expressing a deep appreciation for Beethoven's violin concerto.

Closing Thoughts:

Michelle and Paul express gratitude for the insightful conversation and share a call to action. Paul urges listeners to visit his website and consider making donations to support his mission. Michelle emphasizes the timeliness and importance of Paul's work, encouraging individuals to contribute to the cause.

Transcript of Episode:

Michelle Henderson (00:13):

Hello everybody. Welcome to Michelle's inspiration Hour, where we embark as a journey of empowerment and inspiration. I'm your host, Michelle, and in each episode we aim to ignite the spark within you to embrace new beginnings and uncover the passion that drives you. Today we have a remarkable guest, Paul Hemphill. Paul's journey contains a successful career in marketing and advertising fueled by his philosophical acumen. He's pinned several books including why you're already a leader, and inspiration for teens, which he transformed into captivating video and audio programs. His work is centered around the Battle of Gettysburg, drawing vital life lessons from the historical event. He's also the driving force behind the American Education defenders, a nonprofit dedicated to nurturing self-beliefs in patriotism among our youth through engaging stories from the American's past. So if you are a parent seeking to enrich your child's education or simply looking for inspiration, fuel your own journey, you're in the right place. Join us as we dive into Paul's world of inspiration and empowerment right here on Michelle's inspiration Hour. So let's bring Paul on and hear about his inspiration, how he actually created what he has created. So hello Paul. How are you doing today?

Paul Hemphill (01:53):

Lemme check. I'm not bad.

Michelle Henderson (01:55):

You're alive.

Paul Hemphill (01:59):

Glad to be here. Thank you very much, Michelle. I'm excited to talk to your audience and so let's get started.

Michelle Henderson (02:07):

Oh, absolutely. And I know that I've already told you this, but whenever I saw your profile and being an educator, I used to teach fourth grade and I used to teach Texas history, and you're right, it's so difficult to get kids to really understand why history is so important for us to know because it's facts that have happened, it has shaped our country. And of course Texas, we're very proud of our state. That's why we have Texas history. But anyway, what I want to know is what is your inspiration behind the American Education Defenders, that website and that wonderful curriculum?

Paul Hemphill (02:53):

Great question. I have no answer to. No, I'm just kidding. The inspiration behind it has a lot to do with my own personal experience with my two teenage sons who were in high school at the time, and about every six months I would ask them the same question and I'd always get the same answer. And the question was, so guys, how do you like history, dad, it's boring. Why do you keep asking the same question? So we get to the point where I realized I was never going to get a different answer. I drove down to the local library and walked in and asked the library, and probably the dumbest question she even had heard in at least a couple of years. And I said, is there any book here in the library that inspires high school students to really like history? And she said, what?

No, of course not. And so I had my Damascus moment and I decided, okay, someone's going to do this. And the reason why history does not connect with our kids is I realized is that there's no emotional connection with the facts and stats that they learn and that we adults think, oh, they need to learn this. This is so important. Okay, well, how do you make it important to 'em when they can't relate to There were 53,000 casualties at Gettysburg. Well, so what? Actually it's 51. But anyway, there's no relationship at all emotionally, and the way you connect emotionally with anybody is through stories. And so I discovered that the connection has been hidden in plain sight for decades by these teachers who don't know how to teach history, and they're always complaining about not being relevant. When I started telling stories and making this and making history irrelevant, it was relevant on the terms of what does it mean to me? You see, I look at history very selfishly, that is what does this information that you want me to learn? How is it going to relate to me in my life? And so I took that perspective towards history.

And as they like to say, or as I like to say, the rest is history. Because as I tell these people who call me and say, what do you think happened? Or What was your judgment about what the general so-and-so did on the third day of Gettysburg? And my response is pretty typical. I said, look, if you're looking for a discussion about history, I'm the wrong guy. Right? If you want a discussion about what lessons we can learn from a certain historical moment by a particular person that was in that moment, I'll talk to you all day long about what that guy did and what he can teach me about how I can improve my life with the use of history.

Michelle Henderson (06:02):

Absolutely. And I'm going to go ahead and bring on your website, and I've got pictures from your website, and of course it came from the book Inspiration for Teens. Is that correct? Yes. Is how you kind of developed it. And I love how you have a video that somebody is narrating that actually was there and explained what they'd learned through whatever episode or whatever true event happened. And then you have questions to extend what they watched in the video so that they actually think about it. And I found this, do you remember the, I got to bring this up. Do you remember the American Girl Dolls?

Paul Hemphill (06:47):

The American Girl Dolls? No, I had you had two boys. I know.

Michelle Henderson (06:52):

Yes. I was going to say, I know you had sons, but okay. And my girls, especially my oldest one, absolutely loved it. And this is kind of what it reminded me of is they have a doll that is in a certain type of century or it has gone through something and it has a history behind the doll, and they dress up in the period where they were actually born and where they lived. And that starts with the real little ones. And so I found that very, very interesting. But I love how you took it where high schoolers could actually be interested in instead of reading from a really thick book, it's so hard to really understand it that way.

Paul Hemphill (07:41):

Well, it's interesting. When I published the book originally it was titled Why You're Already a Leader. And it was selling fairly well to management types, but for the general public, it wasn't going anywhere. And so I had these two teenagers from Pittsburgh who happened to inform me that they really loved what was in the book, but they thought that the title was terrible. And so I said, oh, wouldn't you suggest? And they said, how about inspiration for teens? And I thought, well, the book isn't doing all that. Well, I'll try that. I'll hire another cover designer and we'll change the title. As soon as I changed the title and put it on Amazon, the Salesman through the Roof. Now parents were buying the book, but I'm saying to myself, I don't know if the kids are reading it, but apparently the parents are. In fact, I had one Air Force Colonel who requires that his senior enlisted men and junior officers read the book. It's mandatory.

And so what happens is I called YouTube one day and I said, what's the deal with who's watching? And all of that. And part of that discussion was, look, sir, kids aren't reading anymore because they're spending nine to 10 hours a day on a screen, this little instrument. And if you're not there, sir, they're not seeing what you want them to see. So I thought, okay, fine. So I convert most of the book over to video and name the video series America's 52 Stories. So there are 52 videos in there, and I accompany those videos with what I call digital flashcards that you can print out and put on your room wall or your refrigerator and that sort of thing as reminders of how great your abilities are that you can exercise today, not 20 years from now. And so our kids need that kind of inspiration because they're craving it. And I get this from the parents and particularly grandparents are very sensitive to this stuff. And so I talk too much. Go ahead, ask me the next question.

Michelle Henderson (10:02):

Oh, no, I think it's awesome because you're exactly saying that the parents and the grandparents are purchasing or wanting to go to your website. To me, if the kids are not learning this in school, that they can always teach them at home as well after they get home from school during the summertime and really bring this up as an extra thing that they can do with their kids and just kind of learn through it. Because especially our grandparents have gone through so much and they're there to teach us what society was what now, I know that they weren't probably born that long ago, but now, but they can talk about the different wars or what their grandparents went through and learning from each other. So I think that I love that statement. Absolutely. Well, the

Paul Hemphill (10:59):

Great thing about the videos, Michelle, is that the kids will not read, but they'll watch. And so now they can reach me and the parents can reach me on these electronic devices. And something happened during this whole process that I wasn't aware of, didn't intend it to happen. But as parents and students are watching these videos together, these questions at the end of the videos, I always say to the parents, make sure your son or daughter answers those questions. Now, the first answer they'll give you is to, the question is, I don't know. And that's, that's how teenagers always answer questions. I have no idea. Well, you need after you get the answer, it might be three days from now, which is the reason why I only send out one video a week. So they spend the time thinking about what they saw, what that question is, and as soon as the parent gets those answers, then they have to give. They don't have to. But my suggestion is the parent should also answer the same questions. And it's remarkable what the parent learns about the student that they didn't know before, what the student didn't know about the parent that they didn't know before. And it's quite a bonding mechanism, which I had no intention it would work out that way, but that's what it's doing.

Michelle Henderson (12:28):

And you can do the same thing in the classroom as well call on five different kids who will have five different perspectives on what they have seen. So Absolutely, absolutely. Love that. So I do want to talk about your other books. It really tells a lot about you, about how important history was, especially about Gettysburg. And let me ask you, why did you choose all the history and everything you chose Gettysburg, so why did you choose that period of time? Yeah,

Paul Hemphill (13:01):

Two reasons. One of them was that Gettysburg was the largest manmade catastrophe in our nation's history. It wasn't Pearl Harbor, it wasn't nine 11 in three days at Gettysburg, we had over 51,000 casualties in three days. It was just huge. It was just, I mean, it's remarkable to think that if you had 53,000 casualties or 12,000 deaths on nine 11, that would've been just so spectacularly unbelievable. But the second reason was because probably the most written about event in our nation's history is Gettysburg. And so therefore, I had a lot of resource material that I could go to. And Gettysburg is really a metaphor for who we are. It's really about human nature and the exercise of human nature and the great things about human nature that we can all exercise once we realize what we are capable of. And that's what my book and my videos do.

It illustrates human nature in a way that helps a teenager say, wow, I didn't know I could do that. I think the most dramatic example is that there was a young girl, and when I tell this story, by the way, in a classroom, when I conclude the story, you can watch the jaws drop. It kind of goes like this. There was a young woman at Gettysburg who was told by her mother, look, you got to get down to your uncle's place. There's a lot of things happening here. It's pretty dangerous, and I want you to be safe, so you get down there right away. Okay? So she gets down there and the closer she gets to her uncle's house, she realizes there's something that's being thrown out the window. And the closest she gets, she realizes that these are severed limbs, arms and legs being thrown out the window by these doctors who are operating in this house.

And so of course, she starts to throw up. She's never seen anything like this before, but for the next three days, what she does, and this is the key here, is that she's going from wounded man to wounded man with nothing more than a cup of water. And her ability, if you want to call it that, I think you do, her ability to just simply listen to their agony. And as a result of the act of listening, she was able to bring some of these men across what I call an emotional bridge of hope over which few of us adults could cross alone. And she did it with nothing more than the ability to listen than a cup of water. So she was exercising leadership in that situation.

And so when I tell a classroom that at the time of the battle, this girl was only 15 years old, it tells us in such a simple way that we are capable as a teenager of keeping hope alive where there is none that we can save a life without even trying, just listening. And that's just one of 203 lessons that I have in my book and in my video. So yeah, we tend to complicate things in our society for the sake of profit, and I like to simplify them, which is the reason why my philosophy background is so critical, because as I like to remind my classmates at our reunions, I made it in philosophy and the result was I was able to simplify the complicated, get it.

Michelle Henderson (17:04):

Absolutely. Absolutely. And it's so much more important the way that you're teaching it, because it does give them character development, it gives them the impact learning about being empathetic, and instead of learning about the dates, I know the dates around the dates are important, but learning the battle names. Oh, yeah. So you can tell what kind of history teacher I had, and I did not have the memory to remember all of this, but I could actually remember how the event happened, but not like the specific dates.

Paul Hemphill (17:43):

I'm not suggesting that my program should be a substitute for the teaching, but it's simply a supplement to bring the students closer to the event that's being discussed. And then I always say to a teacher, copy what I did, make your students do their own videos about World War II or an event in the American Indian Wars of the 1880s, and the lessons they learned from that, so they can create their own videos and decide, wow, this history is really cool stuff. And that's what I want these kids to come away with, is to think that American history is really cool to use their vernacular.

Michelle Henderson (18:35):

Absolutely. And I love that because they're using what is familiar to them, and I'm just amazed that three-year-olds can get an iPad and know how to work it. So you're getting them to use the technology that they can use to really make it enriched. It's almost like, what is that? Almost like what they do on the battlefield now is they reenact things. So it's basically the same thing. Yeah,

Paul Hemphill (19:10):

That's interesting. Reenactment. I guess there's a place for that. I can't really relate to that sort of thing the same way. I can't relate to a history teacher walking into a classroom dressed as a civil war soldier because that's all eye candy.

Michelle Henderson (19:26):

I see.

Paul Hemphill (19:27):

From my perspective, what do they learn from that? What they learn is the teacher's pretty cool, Right?

Michelle Henderson (19:32):

That's true.

Paul Hemphill (19:33):

Okay, well, what's the teacher got to do with learning something that's so important from a historical event in doing that? So I just think that we can be creative. We have an education system that is geared towards standardization, conformity and compliance. And our kids are too creative in imaginative to be conforming to anything. And so I'm kind of like the pattern interrupter,

Let's interrupt this whole thing and give these kids what they're looking for. The questions that I came up with was not my idea. It came up with in a Zoom call that I made in Norman, Oklahoma, and towards the end of the interview, everything was going really well. And this little hand goes up in the back of the room and Ms. Bureau comes up to the camera and she said, Mr. Heel, could I make a suggestion? I said, sure, go ahead. And she said, it'd be kind of great if you had something at the end of each video, maybe a question or two that could bring the student back into the lesson and the story you just related and make it relatable to them.

Michelle Henderson (20:51):

Wow, that is awesome.

Paul Hemphill (20:56):

Yes, it was. And I went back to every single one of my videos and I redid every single one of them because of that. What that one student said, every video has a bunch of questions that come with them. The parents, of course, who receive them, they don't know that I went through that process.

Michelle Henderson (21:16):


Paul Hemphill (21:17):

But whatever the student wants, whatever they can, however it relates to 'em, is what I want to do. And so now I'm at a point, Michelle, where I'm getting out of Gettysburg and I want to do videos and stories about other Americans of all races and CREs and colors of different eras in our history so that Hispanic student can come into the same class with the kid whose grandparents are from Germany and all that, and say, your ancestors are pretty cool. Yeah, your ancestors are pretty cool too. And so that's what makes us great. And so I am looking for, I'm donation situation at this point where I need to raise funds to help me make all these things. And I need to hire a marketing firm that's going to get the word out, because I'm all by myself. I don't have a staff. It's all me.

Michelle Henderson (22:18):

Oh, wow.

Paul Hemphill (22:19):

Yeah. So if I could get help that way people can go on my website and they can go to the donation page and just click away. So anyway, that's a little plug.

Michelle Henderson (22:29):

Well, and I will put where your website is in the notes so that they know exactly where to go to donate. I've got to show this picture though. The American's oldest teen. So where did you come up with this? The American's oldest teen. Well,

Paul Hemphill (22:48):

When I was marketing high school students to colleges by emphasizing their attributes, not their grades and test scores, scores, I was invited to a graduation party by one of my students, and she had all her girlfriends there.

And of course they all knew who her parents were and all that, but they didn't know who this guy was with the white hair over in the corner. And so she looked at the girl, she says, Hey girls, come on over here. I want you to meet the oldest teenager in America. So because I love these kids, I relate to them, I can speak their language pretty fairly, and they were just a lot of fun, but very inspiring to me because a lot of my students, and they were bright students, they had a lot of suffering with low self-esteem. They didn't think they're all that great, particularly the girls and the guys, not so much. And that's what was, I guess that's the real inspiration behind the book. I was so to speak, as I say on my donation page, Matt as hell, that schools are not helping these kids with their self-image with any type of program that didn't feel, they don't feel even today that that's their job. In fact, it's even worse today because today they don't teach anything that's positive, or at least that's the impression I get that. So our kids are suffering from anxiety and depression and loneliness as a result of all of this. And how do we correct that? And my suggestion is, is that my program is a start. It's not a solution, but it's a start to a solution, I think, to what our parents are looking for and what our kids really need and what they're asking for. And they're not getting it from anybody.

Michelle Henderson (24:49):

Right. Well said, Paul. Okay. I've got to ask you now, this is completely different than what we've been talking about. So if you were going to give somebody an inspirational message, what message would that be?

Paul Hemphill (25:09):

Usually I'm asked that question at the end, and I always have a quote that I like to quote. Oh,

Michelle Henderson (25:15):


Paul Hemphill (25:15):

From someone that you might be familiar with, and I'll give his name at the end. And this is what we said. It's not can any of us imagine better, but can we do better? The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion as our case is new. So we must think anew and act anew, and then we shall save our country. Abraham Lincoln.

Michelle Henderson (25:52):

I love it. And I actually saw a picture of you standing beside a statue. Oh no. It was on a T-shirt that said I Miss Abe or something. Yeah,

Paul Hemphill (26:06):

I was thinking about wearing that today, but maybe on the next interview. How's that sound?

Michelle Henderson (26:10):

Hey, there you go. There you go. I thought, oh my gosh. That's just perfect. And that just went along with it. Sure. Alright, so are you ready for the last question,

Paul Hempfield (26:20):

Michelle? I'm always ready.

Michelle Henderson (26:22):

Okay. Alright. And you know what? I'm not surprised. And this question, we don't know what it's going to be. It's always a surprise. So let's see. Lemme go ahead and spin the wheel. Spin the wheel. Oh, I love it. I'll tell you what it says. It's really hard on our screen. It's really little. But if you had a secret talent, okay, let me back up the question. Secret talent. What secret talent do you have? Because it's secret no one knows about.

Paul Hemphill (27:06):

I'm a pretty open person, and so that kind of destroys that question. If you want to spin the wheel again, you can. I really don't. I'm really an open book. People know me. I'm outgoing, as you can tell. And so I'm never afraid to say, Hey, this is what I do. If you don't like what you see, hey, go somewhere else. I don't care. That kind of thing. But I guess that's my answer.

Michelle Henderson (27:42):

Okay. Alright. So I'm going to kind of extend it a little bit. All alright. So it's almost like what I was asking at the very beginning. So if there is a talent that you don't have, what kind of talent do you want? Does that make sense?

Paul Hemphill (27:58):

Yes. I would love to be able to play the piano or the violin because my favorite piece of music is Beethoven's a violin concerto. It's about 44 minutes long. It's the most beautiful piece of music. You have to listen to it sometimes, and you've got to have al Perman be the one who's the violinist. And if you can get about halfway through that, about halfway through is when it becomes really, really good. And so that's my inspiration because music is the language of the soul. Absolutely. You listen to that piece. There's something about your soul that really comes alive that you didn't realize was there.

Michelle Henderson (28:51):

Right, right. Awesome. Paul, thank you so much. So is there anything that we did not talk about that you want to make sure that you get into this episode?

Paul Hemphill (29:02):

No, I think that probably the more important concern that I have, and I'm kind of being selfish at this point, I guess, is I really need to help in raising funds. And typically I think if I could find high net worth individuals who really believe in what it's that I'm doing, I would love to talk to those people and really go from there. Because I think that's the only way it's going to happen because I do need to raise quite a bit of money to do the project that I want to do. And as you can see, I might be 77 years old, but I'm going on 18.

Michelle Henderson (29:45):

Absolutely. And you know what, Paul, you're not being selfish because this is the place where people watch and they hear as well your message. And so this is the place to do it. I mean, where else are you going to ask for the funds? Because you will find people that believe in the same thing that you do because it is so timely right now that we need to get education out, historical education out for these kids.

Paul Hemphill (30:14):

And I think that American history is so vibrant, it's so rich in its lessons, and it really hit me pretty hard when I was out in South Dakota last summer on my bucket list trip as a matter of fact, and I went to Wounded Knee and it was really a dramatic moment for me because I didn't realize what an impact that massacre on 300 innocent men, women, and children had on the people to this day, to this day in that little town of South Dakota. So that's another story. And I knew then that I had to do stories and videos about the American Indian, or as they would like to say, first Nations people because they were the first Nations here before the European settlers came to this country back in the 15th century. And so we've got a lot of work to do and I'm really looking forward to doing it too.

Michelle Henderson (31:25):

Awesome. Well, thank you Paul for being here. And again, you've got a fantastic message. And everyone else, as you have heard it, Paul really needs a marketing team. He also needs the funds to continue his passion. We all have passion, and I think it's so important for us to find our passion because you don't know what difference you're going to make in the world. So I will see you next week with another inspirational message.


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