Our Independence Day is upon us.  It’s a day of great celebration for our nation, complete with flags, fireworks, and backyard barbecues.  However, it’s important to note that while we celebrate July 4th, we did not gain our independence on that day.  Our true independence came seven long years later, after a monumental and unprecedented struggle.

Just because we declared independence did not make our nation free from tyranny.  We had to fight for our freedom, and we fight for it still today.  Independence isn’t a permanent condition.  Freedom is fleeting if allowed to fall to disinterest or hopelessness.  As President Ronald Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than a generation away from extinction.”

Nowhere was hopelessness more apparent than in December of 1776 as the Continental Army encamped at Valley Forge.  The revolution itself teetered on a knife’s edge. Our troops were frozen, sick, and starving that winter, as each person wondered if “freedom” was truly worth such a struggle.

But in our nascent country’s most desperate hour, a pamphlet circulated throughout the colonies. General Washington ordered it read to his troops around the campfires.  Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, “The American Crisis,” was just the spark needed to inspire colonists during the war, reminding them that freedom was worth the price.

Paine wrote:

“THESE are the times that try men’s souls.  The summer soldier and the sunshine
patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands
it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not
easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict,
the more glorious the triumph.  What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly:
it is dearness only that gives everything its value.  Heaven knows how to put a
proper price on its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article
as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.” 

As we celebrate our Independence Day, let us remember that our quest for freedom was the inspiration for millions seeking to throw off the yoke of oppression and claim their right to self-determination.  America is still that inspiration, but we cannot forget that a fight to preserve freedom is even more important than the fight to achieve it.   Each day we must rededicate ourselves to this purpose.  And it’s a hard fight.  It should be hard, lest in Paine’s admonishment, we esteem it too lightly.  Our freedom is not a trinket to discard when it becomes inconvenient or trade for something less burdensome.  It is far too precious.

I hope you will all join me in the joyful celebration of this great moment in our nation’s history, and in the history of freedom-loving people everywhere.  Our country has been given great blessings and we have so much to be thankful for.  The rights for which we have fought so valiantly come with great responsibilities to maintain them, not only for ourselves, but for generations to come.

Best regards,