In his first year as president, Ronald Reagan wrote an essay entitled “What the Fourth of July Means To Me.” Today, as you prepare to celebrate the 246th anniversary of our Declaration of Independence, I’d like to share some excerpts of Reagan’s thoughts about American patriotism.
For one who was born and grew up in the small towns of the Midwest, there is a special kind of nostalgia about the Fourth of July. I remember it as a day almost as long-anticipated as Christmas…
Somewhere in our growing up we began to be aware of the meaning of days and with that awareness came the birth of patriotism. July Fourth is the birthday of our nation. I believed as a boy, and believe even more today, that it is the birthday of the greatest nation on earth…
What manner of men were [gathered in Philadelphia in July 1776]? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists, 11 were merchants and tradesmen, and nine were farmers. They were soft-spoken men of means and education; they were not an unwashed rabble. They had achieved security but valued freedom more. Their stories have not been told nearly enough.
John Hart was driven from the side of his desperately ill wife. For more than a year he lived in the forest and in caves before he returned to find his wife dead, his children vanished, his property destroyed. He died of exhaustion and a broken heart.
Carter Braxton of Virginia lost all his ships, sold his home to pay his debts, and died in rags… [Thomas] Nelson personally urged Washington to fire on his home and destroy it when it became the headquarters for General Cornwallis. Nelson died bankrupt.
But they sired a nation that grew from sea to shining sea… In recent years, however, I’ve come to think of that day as more than just the birthday of a nation. It also commemorates the only true philosophical revolution in all history.
Oh, there have been revolutions before and since ours. But those revolutions simply exchanged one set of rules for another. Ours was a revolution that changed the very concept of government.
Let the Fourth of July always be a reminder that here in this land, for the first time, it was decided that man is born with certain God-given rights; that government is only a convenience created and managed by the people, with no powers of its own except those voluntarily granted to it by the people. We sometimes forget that great truth, and we never should.
By all means, enjoy this Fourth of July. Celebrate our independence with friends and family. But please take a moment to remind your children and grandchildren about America’s exceptionalism and the significance of Independence Day.
Remind them about the sacrifices at Bunker Hill and Concord Bridge that were necessary to create this nation and secure our freedoms. Tell them about the courage of George Washington crossing the Delaware River on Christmas night.
Most importantly, tell them about America’s “mission statement.” It can be found in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…
Let us rededicate ourselves to the vision of our Founding Fathers — of ordered liberty under God — so that freedom and prosperity may be preserved for our children and future generations to come.
God bless you, my friends, and may God bless the United States of America!
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