Family reunions, parades, fireworks, picnics, barbecues, concerts. It’s likely that most of us in the United States will participate in one or more of these celebratory events in the coming week. Hopefully, as we do, we’ll think about why we’re celebrating.
Eleven months prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor that caused the United States to declare war on Japan, President Franklin D. Roosevelt outlined what he felt to be four universal freedoms people everywhere should fight for and possess:
“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
“The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.
“The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.
“The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.
“The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.”
Seventy-seven years later, we are still fighting to secure these four freedoms. In some places, progress has been made. In others, efforts are tenuous. On the home front, many of us disagree about the hows and whys of these freedoms. That we can disagree, however, is itself a manifestation of freedom.
As you celebrate this July 4th—Independence Day—I hope you’ll take time to think about your individual efforts in the pursuit of freedom. You may not be able to secure global freedom from fear, but you can make sure your own actions don’t cause others to fear. You can also do the challenging work of rooting out fear—fear of change, fear of failure, fear of the future—in your personal life and thus bring a measure of freedom to your mind and soul.
Small and big acts of service can lead to greater freedom from want for those in your own community who lack basic resources and comfort. Continually speaking up for the things you believe in contributes to continued support of this nation’s First Amendment. Doing so respectfully and in defense of people of all faiths demonstrates reverence for the rights granted to us as Americans.
On this day of celebrating our nation’s freedoms, may we also remember what those freedoms mean to us and heed President Roosevelt’s words from an earlier time of unrest—not unlike that of today—that “As men do not live by bread alone, they do not fight by armaments alone. Those who man our defenses, and those behind them who build our defenses, must have the stamina and the courage which come from unshakable belief in the manner of life which they are defending.”