Saturday we will celebrate the Fourth of July. There will be hot dogs and hamburgers, kids playing in sprinklers and swimming pools and, of course, fireworks — lots of them. If it’s like every year before, Clinton, for example, will welcome hundreds, perhaps even thousands, to Royal Lane Park and in parking lots along Sunset. There, with tailgates flung open, grills fired up and blankets spread out, everyone will wait anxiously to witness the culmination of a day’s worth of activities celebrating the nation’s birthday, as the night sky is illuminated by a wonderful light show.
Newton Grove will hold similar activities a day later, on Sunday, during their own July 4th celebration at Weeks Park.
During those celebrations, some might stop the revelry long enough to say the Pledge of Allegiance, placing hand to heart in honor of our nation’s birthday and in tribute to the freedoms we have and to those who have made it possible. At least we hope some will.
But what does all this revelry mean? Why do we celebrate a freedom that most, if not all of us, have never been without?
President Abraham Lincoln probably captured it best when he said, “Freedom is the last, best hope of earth.” It is something we should cherish rather than take for granted.
Say it to yourselves quietly. Freedom is the last, best hope of earth. Does it bring you comfort? Does it, perhaps, make you sigh or give you chill bumps?
It is for that reason that we should celebrate, offer thanks to God and validate feelings we don’t even understand through celebrations that cannot possibly capture how we should feel about this great nation we are blessed to live in, the men and women throughout history who have made it possible and the hard-fought battles waged time and again to ensure that we are never without the very freedoms we so easily assume are just going to be there day after day.
It’s easy to do, really, since most of us can’t ever recall a time in our lives when we weren’t free. The freedom that President Lincoln spoke so eloquently about is something we’ve grown accustomed to, something that comes as naturally, and is as expected, as having air to breathe and food to eat.
But this freedom we will celebrate this weekend didn’t come about all that easily, nor has it been protected without peril.
It was the dream of men willing to put quill to parchment, risking their lives for the sake of something they loved more than life — liberty. And through their declarations of freedom they took up a cause far more powerful than even their words could describe.
In so doing, they brought a new nation to life, and with it the freedoms we all enjoy today.
It is those freedoms we should give thought to not just when we celebrate July 4th or Memorial Day, but every day. It is those freedoms we should praise God for, freedoms that give us hope, inspire us to action and remind us of those who so bravely died upholding its cause.
America’s freedom is forever tied to the birth of this great nation. And though battle-scarred and different from what our forefathers might have envisioned, this nation and the freedoms she stands for define who we are individually and collectively. It’s what sets us apart.
No matter our differences, regardless the flaws in our moral fabric, America still stands proud and tall, representing the freedom that has, over time, come with great loss. And we pay her homage.
It’s what this celebration we call the Fourth of July should really be about — honoring freedom and standing up for it at every turn. But more than that, it’s a celebration we should have more often, if in no other place than in our hearts.
We should never take our freedoms for granted and we should understand that with those freedoms come great responsibilities, those we should pass on from generation to generation so freedom’s light will forever burn in the hearts and minds of every American.
Lincoln was right, freedom is the last, best hope of the earth. May it forever ring … may it forever be celebrated.