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.
July 4, 1776
Our country was founded on the values of liberty and freedom, equality and human rights. Over the course of our history we have struggled to live up to these ideals. We have had out dark periods and our moments of success. But through it all we have been seen as a nation which, at its best, had the goal of freedom, opportunity and dignity for all and opened it to those who came here seeking it. We need these principles to guide us more than ever at this difficult time when we are struggling with division, and a new awareness of the meaning of equality and human rights. We cannot sacrifice these values through fear, indifference, or deliberate misinformation. Yet, we see alarming trends that threaten the freedoms we hold dear. We are hearing revelations of exactly how close our country came to illegal control. We see objectivity in interpretation of the law being replaced by political bias. Our responsibility as citizens supersedes any loyalty to a political party’s desire for power. Our country is a noble experiment that depends on the vigilance of its citizens. We cannot afford to be complacent for there is no guarantee that our democracy will endure. Patriotism is not a one-day celebration, but a realistic commitment to the best of who we are as a nation, and a desire to support one another as we work together to achieve it. It is not about one of us or some of us but about all of us and each of us. As we celebrate this national holiday, may we be grateful for the vision and gift of America. In that spirit of gratitude, may we deny all prejudice and division a place in our hearts; may we focus on the founding vision of this country, work to keep it alive, refuse to relinquish it to those who seek to subvert it, and hold to the belief that all people have equal dignity and worth.
Bless our nation, O God, and guide us in right paths.
Read the Declaration of Independence again. Analyze the principles it includes. Reflect on what you cherish as an American citizen. Identify the corresponding responsibility you have. How can you join others to prevent anyone from putting personal power above the common good? Consider the grievances listed in the Declaration. What may distress you about our country at this time? How can you exercise your citizenship to help correct this?
You shall…proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.
You shall not therefore oppress one another.
A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.
Independence Day: freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed – else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.
Harry S. Truman
The virtue of patriotism demands that we put our founding ideals above our present opportunities. Otherwise, like all the decayed regimes before us, we may well put our national politics before our national characters.
The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.
Among the features peculiar to the political system of the United States, is the perfect equality of rights which it secures to every religious sect.
He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.
I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.
My God! How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Our contest is not only whether we ourselves shall be free, but whether there shall be left to mankind an asylum on earth for civil and religious liberty.
The following event is recorded in a journal kept by James McHenry (1753-1816) while he was a Maryland delegate to the Constitutional Convention. On the page where McHenry records the events of the last day of the convention, September 18, 1787, he wrote: “A lady asked Dr. Franklin Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy – A republic replied the Doctor if you can keep it.”