Hailing the Ancestors and Heroes

In the nearly two and a half centuries since the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, many other heroes have joined the fight expand their application and understand their meaning. In this litany we hail some of them.

One person can hail all on the list, echoed by the other participants , or the heroes can be hailed in turn by everyone sitting in a circle.

Invoking the Ancestors:

In times of old the peoples honored their Mighty Dead and invoked their help and protection. We call upon those who have inspired, warned, and led us on the journey to manifest the promise of the Declaration and Constitution. Give us the strength to follow!  After each hero is invoked, respond with, “Hail”

We begin with our first president, whose birthday we celebrate this weekend, a man who won the admiration of the world by leading the fight for independence, guiding the country through its first years and then stepping down, a man who earned the title of “Father of his country” though he had no children of his own.


Hail to George Washington!

(All: “Hail!”)

Remind the president that he is the servant of the people.
Anchor us to the ideals you fought for
so long as your monument shall stand.

Hail to James Madison!  (Hail)
Protect the Bill of Rights and the Constitution,
And teach their meaning
to those who make, interpret and enforce the laws of this land.

Hail to Benjamin Franklin! (Hail)
Inspire us with the spirit of invention that made us great
the pragmatism that makes us prosperous,
and the humor that helps us to cope with it all.

Hail to Harriet Tubman! (Hail)
As you overcame all obstacles,
show us how to overcome the problems
that block our way to freedom.

Hail to Abraham Lincoln! (Hail)
Remind our leaders that a divided nation cannot long endure,
and that all our people, of whatever race or ethnic origin,
are equally entitled to liberty and justice in this land.

Hail to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Ida Wells! (Hail)
Protect women’s sovereignty over their minds and bodies,
And motivate them to exercise the rights you won.

Hail to John Muir! (Hail)
Show our leaders the beauty of our land
And inspire them to protect and preserve it.

Hail to Jane Addams and Dorothea Dix! (Hail)
Show our leaders how to meet the needs
of those in the back streets
as well as on Main Street and Wall Street.

Hail to Franklin Delano Roosevelt! (Hail)
Inspire our leaders to create a new New Deal,
that the Four Freedoms you proclaimed,
may endure so long as the waters flow.

Hail to Eleanor Roosevelt! (Hail)
Remind us that we are part of a larger world,
and that justice and prosperity for any one group
depend on justice and prosperity for all.

Hail to Martin Luther King, Jr. (Hail)
Protect those whose lives are threatened
because of their race or religion.
Show us when Civil Disobedience is necessary,
And ward us when we do it.

Hail to John F. Kennedy! (Hail)
Show our leaders what our country should do for us
and teach us what we can do for our country.

Hail to Rachel Carson! (Hail)
Continue to cry out your warning.
For if the land dies, no human freedom can endure.

Hail to César Chavez! (Hail)
Give us strength to protect the rights of those
who work for this country, regardless of where they were born.

Hail to Harvey Milk! (Hail)
Defend our freedom to love, our right to live,
And our right to claim our true identities.


We have called upon our Mighty Dead,
Though these are only a few of the many
Who have fought to make this country
Live up to its ideals.

Let us sit for a few moments in silence to ask their help in solving the problems that weigh most heavily upon us now.


If  this piece is part of a larger ritual, you may need the following material as a farewell.


Hail and farewell to the Mighty Dead!

George Washington, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin!
We thank you for establishing our freedoms.

Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Ida Wells,
we thank you for working to extend those freedoms to all races and genders.

Jane Addams and Dorothea Dix, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt,
we thank you for striving to make this a country that will meet the needs of all.

John Muir and Rachel Carson,
we thank you for making us aware of the need to preserve the land.  

Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy,
we thank you for leading the Civil Rights Movement and supporting it by law.

César Chavez and Harvey Milk,
we thank you for championing the rights of those who were too long ignored.