As we come together this week to celebrate our nation’s independence we are reminded of the freedoms we enjoy and the rights we share as citizens within the United States. We remember those fought, and are currently fighting, for our country so that we can be free from tyranny and truly pursue happiness.
On 4 July 1776 the United States was born by declaring its independence from Great Britain. The preamble of the Declaration of Independence states: “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.” We as a nation have struggled over the years when trying to truly understand what a “right” is, and what is self-evident.
In November 1863 President Abraham Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address, which began: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” President Lincoln reminded us during the Civil War that we as a nation had not lived up to the belief that all men were created equal. He reminded us “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.”
One hundred years later, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream speech” He makes reference to the Emancipation Proclamation given by President Lincoln calling for freedom from slavery in the United States. Dr. King in this speech was harkening back not only 100 years, but 187 years to when the Continental Congress declared independence. King writes:
“When we allow freedom to ring – when we let it ring from every city and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last, free at last, great God almighty, we are free at last.’”
My brothers and sisters, may we take a moment this July fourth to remember our 242-year history. May we remember that we have not always gotten it right. May we remember that men and women have given their lives so that we can have freedom of speech, to vote, to truly live in the pursuit of Happiness. May we take a moment to pray this July fourth. Pray for those who are persecuted in our country; pray for those in our military protecting our freedoms; pray for each other; pray that we may let go of our prejudices, so that, we can truly be “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”