At a time of diminishing freedom, a reminder of America’s precious gift

EDITOR’S NOTE: With this holiday post by the esteemed Macinelli, we’re giving notice that The Shinbone Star is back in business. We thought our job was done when Diaper Don toddled off to Mar-a-Lago, but recent events have shown just how wrong that assumption was. Though we haven’t been posting publicly, your favorite crew of journalistic retirees has kept in close contact, fanning the flames of each other’s hatred for the Creamsicle Caligula and all that he’s done to our country. It might take us some time to get our old nags saddled again and able to maintain anything more than a slow trot, but stay tuned andHi Ho, Silver,” we’re not done yet!

By MACINELLI

Two years ago, July 4, 2020, the School of Government at Hillsdale College in Washington, D.C. gave our country a valuable gift. It created a post highlighting 15 speeches from national and world leaders with a common message: What Independence Is About.

In a prelude to those historical texts, the author of the post noted: “This day does not only represent the creation of a new nation, but the creation of a new civilization, one founded on the principles of freedom, self-government, and equality. Looking at who and what we were will help us remember who and what we ought to be.”

Apparently few Americans saw or read this special gift. 

Six months after the post, on Jan. 6, 2021, domestic terrorists — encouraged and emboldened by a then-sitting president of our country — violently attacked the building where lawmakers were preparing to approve the peaceful transfer of power from the United States’ soon-to-be former leader to America’s next duly-elected chief executive.

The coup failed because a few courageous patriots stood their ground against the onslaught of lies, death threats and political attacks aimed at ending their governmental careers. 

Would reading the Hillsdale College gift have stopped the attempt to overthrow our republic, a global force for freedom? Of course not.

Now, some 18 months after the failed coup, we as a people need to listen, to understand and embrace words from leaders who shaped and understood what this “new civilization” would mean not only to future generations of Americans but to freedom seekers around the world.

Much like ‘hints’ on tags attached to brightly wrapped Christmas or birthday packages, the following excerpts from a few of these historical speeches are intended to encourage spending time reacquainting ourselves with how valuable this experiment in democracy is to all Americans, as well as to freedom loving people around the world.

Who delivered the speeches Hillsdale College folks highlighted in their July 4 “gift”? A couple of their choices might surprise you:

  • Patrick Henry
  • Samuel Adams
  • John Quincy Adams
  • Daniel Webster
  • Frederick Douglass
  • Abraham Lincoln (four times)
  • Winston Churchill
  • Calvin Coolidge
  • John F. Kennedy
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. (2 times)
  • Ronald Reagan

The Hillsdale College “gift” is available here: https://dc.hillsdale.edu/News/Latest-News/15-Great-Speeches-to-Remind-America-what-independe/.

Much like hints on tags attached to brightly wrapped Christmas or birthday packages, the following excerpts from these historical speeches are intended to reacquaint ourselves with how valuable this experiment in democracy is to all Americans, and to freedom loving people around the world.

Share this July 4 gift with family and friends. Use it to encourage conversations not only about our past but about the future of our nation, which was founded on an evolving principle that all men are created equal. We need to look forward not backward for the sake of future generations.

First, from John Quincy Adams, son of Founding Father John Adams and himself the sixth president of the United States. In 1821, in celebration of the Fourth of July, Adams delivered a speech famous for a quote on foreign policy, but it included an eloquent expression of America’s founding ideals. Adams’ ode to the Declaration of Independence is worth reading:

“It was the first solemn declaration by a nation of the only legitimate foundation of civil government. It was the corner stone of a new fabric, destined to cover the surface of the globe. It demolished at a stroke the lawfulness of all governments founded upon conquest. It swept away all the rubbish of accumulated centuries of servitude.

“It announced in practical form to the world the transcendent truth of the unalienable sovereignty of the people. It proved that the social compact was no figment of the imagination; but a real, solid, and sacred bond of the social union…”

Adams goes on to pronounce that the Declaration was more than the “mere secession of territory” and the “establishment of a nation.” No, these things have occurred before, but the Declaration of Independence not only liberated America but ennobled all of humanity, he stated. 

Frederick Douglass, the famous abolitionist, delivered what is now considered the most famous July 4 address (delivered on July 5, 1852). In his remarks, Douglass praised the Declaration of Independence. He spoke about the Founding Fathers as men of courage who “preferred revolution to peaceful submission to bondage.” 

Of the “fathers of this republic” he said, “They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory.”

Drawing a contrast between the Founders and the men of his generation advocating the positive good of slavery Douglass stated:

“They believed in order; but not in the order of tyranny. With them, nothing was ‘settled’ that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were ‘final;’ not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men. They were great in their day and generation. Their solid manhood stands out the more as we contrast it with these degenerate times.”

Douglass rightly pointed out that America was not living up to its own ideals as laid out in the Declaration when it came to the millions of black men and women still enslaved. He stated:

“Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? 

“Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?”

He finished his momentous speech by saying:

“Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. 

“There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. ‘The arm of the Lord is not shortened,’ and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. 

“While drawing encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age.”

Finally from “The Great Communicator,” Ronald Reagan, these words delivered on July 4, 1986 at the climax of a celebration in New York City to honor the newly renovated Statue of Liberty. Reagan delivered the speech from the deck of USS John F. Kennedy in New York Harbor.

Reagan talked about the beautiful friendship between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. He noted how they died on the same day, July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after the signing the Declaration of Independence. It was their first gift to us, Reagan said:

“My fellow Americans, it falls to us to keep faith with them and all the great Americans of our past.

“Believe me, if there’s one impression I carry with me after the privilege of holding for 5 ½ years the office held by Adams and Jefferson and Lincoln, it is this: that the things that unite us — America’s past of which we’re so proud, our hopes and aspirations for the future of the world and this much-loved country — these things far outweigh what little divides us. 

“And so tonight we reaffirm that Jew and gentile, we are one nation under God; that black and white, we are one nation indivisible; that Republican and Democrat, we are all Americans. 

“Tonight, with heart and hand, through whatever trial and travail, we pledge ourselves to each other and to the cause of human freedom, the cause that has given light to this land and hope to the world.”

Amen and amen.

5 thoughts on “At a time of diminishing freedom, a reminder of America’s precious gift

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