A reader sent this one in (thanks LL!) ... a piece in Education News has a nice coupla paragraphs (with links) relating the the U.S. founders' predeliction for Classics (Canada's 'Founding Fathers' had a predeliction for gin):

The Founding Fathers “were steeped in, soaked in, marinated in, the classics: Greek and Roman history, Greek and Roman ideas, Greek and Roman ideals,” says two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough. “It was their model, their example. And they saw themselves very much like the Greeks and the Romans, as actors on a great stage in one of the great historic dramas of all time, and that they, individually and as a group, had better live up to these heroic parts in which history had cast them.”

Although Greek and Roman civilizations were of the very distant past, they were vital to the task at hand. Had the Founding Fathers not been supremely literate in a cultural sense, there would have been no United States of America.

McCullough, in another context: “Historical memory is as much a necessity to the preservation of liberty and American security as is our own armed forces.” In that light America's young face coming threats unarmed. They do not read, few can write, they know little. They ignore the civic life of their communities and the nation. When their time “on a great stage” in the next great historic drama comes, they will be mute and confused.