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By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security
We celebrate the birthday of the United States on July 4th. Many Americans will barbecue with family and friends, while others will head to the beach or the mountains. But how many of us truly contemplate the real meaning of Independence Day?
In our public discourse today, there is much talk about our Founding Fathers. Nevertheless, many of us have little understanding of that monumental event on July 4, 1776, and how that date not only shaped a nation but ushered in a new world.
Just days earlier, 56 men bet everything they had on a piece of parchment, pledging their “lives, fortune and sacred honor” to defy an oppressive king. As Benjamin Franklin eloquently put it, “We must all hang together, or, assuredly, we will all hang separately.”
Signing the Declaration of Independence on that steaming hot July 4th created a new foundation for governing. Everyone would have a right to freedom, with a government that would derive its power from the consent of the people.
Washington Outlines America’s Responsibility for Maintaining Freedom
It’s easy to forget the noble undertaking which begun so long ago. It’s also easy to forget the auspicious beginning that gave hope to a world in which a government would be ruled by its citizens.
In his first inaugural address, President George Washington told his fellow Americans that they had a new responsibility. He stated, “The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”
Kennedy Reinforces Message of Freedom from George Washington
Speaking at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on July 4, 1962, President Kennedy stated, “That Declaration whose yellowing parchment and fading, almost illegible lines I saw in the past week in the National Archives in Washington is still a revolutionary document. To read it today is to hear a trumpet call.
“For that Declaration unleashed not merely a revolution against the British, but a revolution in human affairs. Its authors were highly conscious of its worldwide implications. And George Washington declared that liberty and self-government everywhere were, in his words, ‘finally staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.’”
Those words have never been truer than today. The citizens of the United States often fail to comprehend the true nature of what our founders bequeathed to us and to the world.
The Founding Fathers were not perfect, but they set in motion a government that is ever evolving and continues to evolve. That government has become a beacon of light for all humanity.
The Nation’s Armed Forces Ensure that Freedom Continues
Freedom is never free. As we celebrate our independence, we must always remain mindful of those on the front lines of freedom, the brave men and women of the armed forces around the globe planting the seed of liberty. They protect us and ensure that this grand experiment of democracy continues and thrives.
The American experiment had to win a war of revolution against Britain and also endure a bloody civil war to ensure the torch of liberty would continue to shine. As Abraham Lincoln famously said in the Gettysburg Address: “… that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Lincoln envisioned the guiding principles of the Declaration of Independence and the rights conveyed in the United States Constitution as the foundation upon which all humanity rests.
One has only to read the inspirational words in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Our brave men and women serving our nation know this only too well. They are serving the cause of freedom enumerated in that cherished document, sacrificing and establishing the basic foundation of democracy, often in volatile areas across the globe.
Freedom Can Extract a High Cost
Many families whose loved ones gave their lives for this nation know that the high cost of freedom paid for the benefits we enjoy today. In “Profiles in Courage,” a young John Kennedy wrote: “In the days ahead, only the very courageous will be able to take the hard and unpopular decisions necessary for our survival in the struggle with a powerful enemy. And only the very courageous will be able to keep alive the spirit of individualism and dissent which gave birth to this nation, nourished it as an infant, and carried it through its severest tests upon the attainment of its maturity.”
Unfortunately, many Americans today question the very fabric of what made this country unique. They argue about history without fully understanding its relationship with today’s times. A divinely inspired Constitution demands that people receive and respect such a document and function well within the conditions it establishes.
As a nation, we are blessed to live under freedom, even if we truly do not understand how that freedom was obtained. In our own hemisphere, many people who still live under the cloud of totalitarianism and vile, corrupt despots are unable to enjoy even the basic rights of humanity.
Across the globe, some nations are under a dark blanket of oppression that enslaves their people to an endless abyss of misery. For freedom to be sowed, nations and individuals must be willing to stand up to the forces of evil or sentence future generations to a world without freedom.
Today, we are falling short in teaching our children the history of this country and the sacrifices that have been borne so we may live in freedom. Many people know little of our Founding Fathers, the sacrifices of those men of both sides during the Civil War, or even what the “Greatest Generation” and the “doughboys” endured to rescue humanity from fascism twice in the 20th century.
In fact, this year we mark the centennial of those fighting men – all of whom are now gone – who turned back Hessian aggression in the First World War.
Generations of Americans have failed to understand the unique role this nation plays in preserving freedom. We are not perfect, but to millions around the globe, the U.S. is still that “shining city on a hill.”
Solzhenitsyn Shares A Different View of America
The famous Russian author and dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who spent many years in a Russian prison system, spoke about his view of the United States in 1975. It is far different from how many Americans look at this country today.
Solzhenitsyn said, “The United States has helped Europe to win the First and the Second World Wars. It twice raised Europe from post-war destruction – twice – for 10, 20, 30 years it has stood as a shield protecting Europe while European countries were counting their nickels, to avoid paying for their armies (better yet, to have none at all) to avoid paying for armaments, thinking about how to leave NATO, knowing that in any case America will protect them anyway.”
“The United States of America has long shown itself to be the most magnanimous, the most generous country in the world,” Solzhenitsyn continued. “Wherever there is a flood, an earthquake, a fire, a natural disaster, disease, who is the first to help? Who helps the most and unselfishly? The United States!”
Individual freedoms have been the hallmark and legacy that America gave to the world, not for the benefit of America only, but for the benefit of humanity. We venerate these rights and cherish the fundamental rights of freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion. But we often fail to remember the millions of people around the world who are denied these basic human rights.
On this 4th of July, let’s celebrate what this nation stands for – the concept that freedom should be commonplace to all nations. Let’s help lift the weight of tyranny, so all the people in the world may enjoy the fruits of freedom. Let’s stand for freedom for all. Happy Independence Day, America!