United States Declaration of Independence on a Betsy Ross flag background

By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security

On Tuesday, America will celebrate its 241st birthday. This holiday always brings to mind many of the time-honored traditions which are associated with this special day. However, the Fourth of July has an important meaning, and it should be a day of reflection.

The Fourth is a day that reminds us of that long, hot summer, which ushered in a new beginning – not only for this country but for humanity. The moment when trumpets sounded unleashing the aspirations of a nation that forever changed the destiny of the world. In 1776, a new foundation was established with a government that would derive its power from the consent of the people.

Washington Outlines America’s Responsibility

It’s easy to forget the noble undertaking begun so long ago; easy to forget the auspicious beginning that gave hope to a world in which a government can be ruled by its citizens. President George Washington cautioned his fellow Americans that they had a new responsibility, by stating in his first inaugural address, “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.”

The Nation’s Armed Forces and ‘A New Birth of Freedom’

As we celebrate the birth of this nation, we must not forget that our armed forces are serving around the globe – protecting the very freedom we cherish, always mindful that the democratic experiment which begun on July 4th, 1776 not only survives at home, but also begins to sprout in uncharted realms across the globe.

From the birth of this republic, the foundation of this country was the proposition that all men are created equal. President Abraham Lincoln eloquently stated 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.”

American Symbols of Freedom

Lincoln envisioned the guiding principles of the Declaration of Independence and the rights conveyed in the United States Constitution would be the foundation that all of humanity rests on. The inspired words inscribed in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” instruct many of our brave men and women serving our nation to understand that they are serving the cause of freedom enumerated in that cherished document, sacrificing and establishing the basic foundation of democracy – often in volatile regions across the globe.

Far too often, many have fallen upon the altar of liberty, whose families have the courage and knowledge their loved ones sacrificed and gave all in freedom’s cause. President Kennedy articulated in “Profiles in Courage”: “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.”

Freedom Isn’t Free

Unfortunately, the contemplation of the meaning of freedom is too often a vernacular of popular expression that easily reverberates in our dialogue as we discuss the rights embodied in the Constitution. Over time, a tilt toward the direction of evil has contaminated the moral compass that we hope to enjoy.

Too often, we have failed to realize that many regions and nations of the world still live under the cloud of totalitarianism, unable to enjoy even basic rights. Many nations of the world are left in a dark blanket of oppression that enslaves them 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 forever sentence future generations to a world without freedom.

However, even a divine constitution requires something further; it demands people who will, by their very nature, receive and respect such a constitution and function well within the conditions it establishes. What personifies that idea? The story of an American soldier who helped liberate a concentration camp during World War II, who recalled blowing the lock off the door trying to assist the people inside.

The soldier was interrupted by a tap on his boot and found, wallowing in the mud, a Protestant minister. One of the minister’s first requests was, “Soldier, do you have a flag?” Later, when the soldier retrieved a flag from his jeep, he gave it to the minister on a stretcher and with tears in his eyes, the minister said, “Thank God you came.”

Today, as a nation, we are falling short in teaching our children the history of this country, the history of the sacrifices that have been borne so we may live in freedom. Many people know very little of our Founding Fathers, the sacrifices of those during the Civil War, or even what the “Greatest Generation” had to endure to rescue humanity from fascism in the 20th Century to secure peace.

Today, generations of Americans have failed to understand the unique role this nations plays in preserving freedom. We are not perfect, as many recent news articles state, but to millions around the globe we are (still) that shining city upon a hill.

A World View on America

The famous Russian dissident, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who spent many years in a Russian “Gulag” prison system, gave an eloquent address in 1975, with his thoughts on how he viewed the United States. It is far different from how many Americans look at this country today.

“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.”

Solzhenitsyn continued with, “The United States of America has long shown itself to be the most magnanimous, the most generous country in the world. 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 brought to the world, not for the benefit of America, but for the benefit of humanity. We celebrate these rights, and cherish the fundamental rights of freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, and freedom of religion, but we fail to remember millions around the world are denied these basic rights.

On the Fourth of July, let’s celebrate the principles of 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, and let’s stand for freedom for all. Happy Independence Day.