For most of us, this Independence Day is unlike any Fourth of July we’ve experienced before. Yet, this isn’t the first time that our national celebration will fall during contentious, or even dangerous times. From wars abroad and at home, to civil unrest and even the plague of 1918, our nation has marked our founding in good times and bad. This year is no exception.
So, while it may not be safe for us to gather in large numbers, to celebrate as communities in person, the essence of Independence Day does not differ from years past. If anything, the threats to public health, acrimony of racial divisions and urgency of civil rights fights today call us to more fully celebrate the spirit of freedom and unity which first launched America.
After all, our Founders faced tremendous uncertainty on July 4, 1776. But rather than allow philosophical and other differences to stand in their way, they came together not only to boldly declare their liberty and independence, but to forge a constitutional democracy the likes of which the world had never known.
It’s been called The Great Experiment, a name that itself acknowledges the imperfections and failures that we’ve had to overcome, and which still lie before us. That experiment has succeeded even through dark days, precisely because we are free to improve upon our nation. That experiment must continue, and it will continue, through the challenges we face even now. But only if we work together to keep it.
That success, and our national strength, is derived not from parades and fireworks, but from the bonds which we share, and on which we build a path for all Americans into a brighter, more just future. Democrats, Independents, Republicans and Americans of all persuasions; we share a common goal, to better secure human flourishing through freedom and justice for all people. That is what Independence Day is all about. That is the dream that connects us despite the forces that are keeping us apart.
So let this Independence Day be more than a celebration. Let’s make it a call to action, for Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs to unite behind truth, the rule of law and the defense of our democracy as a whole. These are the values and institutions at the core of our nation, and they depend on all of us for their preservation.
Our Founders were hopeful in their creation of an independent America. Today, we should all share that optimism for a better future for our nation. In the past months, America has been tested and in the coming months we will continue to be tested, but know that we can weather any storm our nation faces if we come together.
Even though the ways we celebrate the 4th of July will look different this year, the meaning of this holiday remains. So, let us give thanks to those who stood up for their beliefs in a better future almost 250 years ago, and redouble our commitment to do likewise, working across any divide to ensure this remains the land of the free.