CHESTER -- Ask preschooler John Hampton Dorsey when his birthday is and two words immediately leave his lips: "Pearl Harbor."
Yes, John Hampton turns 5 today, the date many know as the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941.
John Hampton knows the story, too. In fact, he can recite part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Day of Infamy" speech from memory. Twice last month, he said those famous words at Veterans Day community programs.
"December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy," said the tiny voice where R's occasionally become W's. "No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory."
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John Hampton's parents, Max and Amy Dorsey of Chester, didn't plan on their first child memorizing those lines, let alone reciting them in front of a crowd. Amy, a third-grade teacher at Chester Park Elementary School of the Arts, and Max, a State Law Enforcement Division agent, said their son's speech emerged from a family trip to Washington, D.C., a few years ago.
When they visited the World War II Memorial, Max Dorsey snapped a photograph of an excerpt from FDR's speech engraved on a monument.
The family came home and printed the pictures, which showed those lines of the Pearl Harbor speech clear enough to read. The couple put the 3-by-5 image in a frame and set it beside John Hampton's bed.
This was a natural decision. All of John Hampton's great-grandfathers served in the military. One helped liberate a Nazi concentration camp. Another was a prisoner of war who landed in Normandy, France, a few days after the D-Day invasion. Still another served in the U.S. Navy and was stationed at Pearl Harbor after the war was over.
"He comes from a long line of veterans," Max Dorsey said, noting that line goes back to the Revolutionary War. "We just wanted to raise him to where he was appreciative of so many sacrifices before him."
A curious kid, John Hampton wanted to know the story behind the photo. So every night, when Max would put his son to bed, he'd tell him about the picture and Pearl Harbor and the historical significance of his birthday.
Soon, John Hampton began repeating the lines on the picture. Their evening routine became the Pearl Harbor speech, then bedtime prayers.
He started reciting "Day of Infamy" lines for other people. Word spread and he was invited to speak those memorable words at two Veterans Day services.
John Hampton made his first public speech at the Nov. 9 program at the school where his mother teaches. She watched him proudly, not because he memorized some lines, but because he was helping another generation respect the country's servicemen and servicewomen.
"All I could think about was our grandparents and how proud it makes them," she said.
John Hampton has already planned to pass on his speech to his 1-year-old sister.
"When Emma gets old enough, I'm gonna teach her how to do that," he told his parents.
On Wednesday night, just before church, Max asked his son if he feels proud when he says those words.
John Hampton said he does and his dad asked why.
"'Cause (of) the people that died for our freedom," answers the tiny voice with the Ws as Rs.