The United States celebrates its Independence Day on July 4, to honor the adoption of Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776. It is usually a day of patriotic celebration and family events throughout the country. In the words of Founding Father John Adams, the holiday would be “the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance. … It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
Independence Day is a day where we see elected officials and other public figures give speeches extolling American traditions and values. Some of the speeches have provided us with some of the nation’s most heartfelt words of freedom.
In 1788, James Wilson addressed a Philadelphia gathering that was one of the nation’s largest July 4 celebrations in history. He asked his fellow citizens to ratify the proposed Constitution. “A people, free and enlightened,” he said, “establishing and ratifying a system of government … A WHOLE PEOPLE exercising its first and greatest power — performing an act of SOVEREIGNTY, ORIGINAL and UNLIMITED.”
On July 4, 1852, Black journalist and abolitionist Frederick Douglass decried the evils of slavery, at the time still prevalent in the South, stating that the people were “drawing encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions in operation” that “must inevitably work The downfall of slavery.”
In 1932, during World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke to the people, reminding the nation that for the “weary, hungry, unequipped Army of the American Revolution … the Fourth of July was a tonic of hope and inspiration. So is it now…. The tough, grim men who fight for freedom in this dark hour take heart in its message — the assurance of the right to liberty under God — for all peoples and races and groups and nations, everywhere in the world.”
In 2009, President Obama’s message included the words “the indomitable spirit of the first American citizens.” He called on the American people to “remember how unlikely it was that our American experiment would succeed at all; that a small band of patriots would declare independence from a powerful empire; and that they would form, in the new world, what the old world had never known — a government of, by, and for the people.”
Across the nation, civic leaders will express words such as these and encourage the members of their community to give thanks for the freedom and liberties that previous generations have provided for all Americans.