It’s not hard to love Independence Day. There are fireworks, picnics, baseball games, and a long weekend. What’s more, the air is filled with patriotism. On the Fourth, it seems everyone is thankful for freedom and proud to be an American.
My Fourth of July wish is for this attitude to last all year long. Our public dialogue these days seems to focus on pragmatic questions, like “How much will taxes go up?” or “Can government spend enough money fast enough to mitigate unemployment?” That sort of talk is a missed opportunity for those who believe in both America’s greatness and its founding principles.
Today we are celebrating the act, two hundred and thirty-three years ago today, of fifty-six courageous patriots who signed the Declaration of Independence. Together with the framers of the Constitution, signed some eleven years later, these founding fathers birthed a nation based on individual freedom and its corollary, a strictly limited government.
This risky experiment was a tremendous success. The freedoms built into the American system led individuals here to create the world’s leading society – the most innovative, the wealthiest, the most charitable, and arguably the most moral. While other countries labor to keep their citizens from leaving, America is a beacon of hope for immigrants around the world who want the freedom to make their dreams into reality. America rebuilt Japan and Europe after World War II. Millions around the world, in places like France, South Korea, Bosnia and Iraq, owe their freedom from tyranny to the U.S. We provide 60% of the world’s food aid, and we are spending $15 billion fighting AIDs in Africa.
There is a sentence in the Declaration that we all know by heart: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This stirring sentence is, of course, an ideal. While at times, our nation has fallen short, striving for this ideal has made America the world’s greatest country. I’m proud to be an American, and if you’re an American you should be proud, too. So let’s talk about it!
Even on the other 364 days of the year, let’s remind others what’s special about this country and push to preserve it. Whether we’re talking about health care, taxation, or environmental policy, let’s remember to ask what’s consistent with America’s tradition of liberty. When my father fled Communism and came to the United States in the 1940s, he was not seeking someone to pay his dental bill – he was seeking freedom. When the subject is foreign policy, let’s bring up America’s special role in the world. If we’re talking about regulating what a Cheerios box says, or about campaign finance laws, let’s talk about freedom of speech and what our founding fathers endured so that we would have the protections of the Bill of Rights hundreds of years later.
Let’s change our public dialogue – whatever the question, make the answer, “liberty.”
May God watch over our uniformed men and women, fighting for our freedom this Independence Day, and may God bless America.