On Sept. 28, 1781, Gen. George Washington led a combined force of 17,000 French and Continental troops upon Yorktown, Va., and encircled British Gen. Charles Cornwallis and his regiment of 9,000 British troops. Washington bombarded Cornwallis and crew day and night for three weeks with artillery and cannon fire, until Cornwallis surrendered Oct. 17, 1781. Negotiations for peace began in 1782, and the Treaty of Paris eventually was signed Sept. 3, 1783, formally ending the seven years of war and securing America's independence.
The key to victory at Yorktown came when, at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, the French navy helped to corner Cornwallis and his crew so they could not flee by sea, while Marquis de Lafayette, who, under Washington, led 5,000 American soldiers, blocked Cornwallis' escape by land. Lafayette was only 23 years old at the time.
Lafayette was only 16 when he joined the Black Musketeers back in France, an elite unit of royal troops that rode black horses. He started fighting in the American Revolution in 1777 at only 19, at which time Congress gave him the rank of major general. Two months after the British surrender at Yorktown, Lafayette returned home as a "hero of two worlds."
Marquis de Lafayette was one of Gen. George Washington's secret weapons in the American Revolution. Youths are often the key to victory in revolutions. That's because people often underestimate their potential or perceived contributions. I believe young people will play a critical role in reawakening and returning America again to its Founding Fathers' vision, ways and principles.
It's amazing for us today to think about how much a young Lafayette sacrificed and accomplished for our country, as well as his own. We still are inspired by his example of youthful courage and heroism.
Many adults would say that type of valor rarely exists anymore. But as I meet and hear from young Americans here and around the world, I beg to differ. Though our society often denigrates the teen years and expects very little from our young people, I believe there exists a latent power in this particular generation that waits to be awakened and reveal its full potential.