My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From ev'ry mountainside
Let freedom ring!
This song (or at least this first verse) is known by nearly every schoolchild. As is the phrase written on the Liberty Bell (and its source, Leviticus) "Proclaim liberty throughout the land". The imagery, if you will, of freedom and liberty radiating out, as sound does from a bell, still stirs our collective thoughts and feelings.
Such was what happened in the state house in Philadelphia that summer in 1776. A war for freedom and liberty had been waged for over a year, and would continue to be waged for another 5. The resolution on independence had been adopted on the second of July, but it was the Declaration of Independence, officially accepted on the fourth, that would capture the public's empathy. It was first read in public in Philadelphia on the 8th, with readings in other cities soon following. George Washington read it to his troops in New York City on the 9th, probably within earshot of British forces. By mid-august, it had been received in London, and spread around Europe. The call of freedom had been sounded... and it spread.
It was not an absolute liberty and freedom, by any means. It was a statement of ideals and hopes, not a set of laws to implement those hopes. Slavery existed for decades to come. Many other examples exist where personal and collective freedom have been suppressed over the years. Bit by bit, the ring of freedom spread to these areas. Even today we still hear the echos of this call to liberty ringing across the world - from countries declaring their independence from foreign control, to a population finding liberty from their tyrannical governments, to individuals seeking freedom from burdens in their own hearts and minds.
I said this weekend was about being safe, and here I have talked about being free (a wonderful four letter word in its own right). Where is the safety? The two go hand-in-hand, each helping ensure the blessings of the other. As Ben Franklin reminded us in 1775, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Have a happy and safe Independence Day. Remember those who set these ideals of freedom and liberty in motion, and those who serve to keep us safe and protect them every day. Make liberty a part of your everyday life. Let freedom ring.
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