Tuesday, July 4 is our most important national holiday. We often call it Independence Day. Yet just before the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln explained why July 4 celebrates far more than “the mere separation” of 13 English colonies in America from their motherland. Lincoln said we also celebrate “the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence”.
We are all created equal. We are each endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. Among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To secure these rights, governments are instituted among us, exercising their just powers from the consent of the governed.
When dedicating the cemetery at Gettysburg in 1863, four score and seven (87) years later, Abraham Lincoln applied those words to remind Americans that our nation was “conceived in liberty” and “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”.
As a kid growing up in the 1950’s, a day of the beach, charcoal grilled hot dogs and hamburgers with ice cream, fireworks, and sparklers at night were enough to celebrate July 4.
Back then, nobody felt a need to explain why America was a great country, or why its creation was worth celebrating. Every child already knew why American flags were proudly displayed on the front porch of every house, and from the window flower boxes of every apartment in our Atlantic City neighborhood. We proudly sang the patriotic songs we learned in school.
We all know how good America had been to our families. At almost every family get-together, I heard stories from my parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles of poverty, violence, and persecution in the Old Country– and of the amazing freedom and opportunity they found here in America. They spoke of years of backbreaking work for long hours, winter and summer, scrimping and saving–and of setbacks and insults. But they mostly laughed about mostly good times, including weekends and vacations at some mountain, lake, or beach. And of their pride in children succeeding in ways they never dreamed of.
As a kid, I was often in the homes or yards of friends from school or the neighborhood with far different backgrounds than mine. Yet their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles told the same stories as mine. They all shared the same pride and love of America.
They even laughed and joked about how they got by during the Great Depression! They lost lost jobs, businesses, homes, and life savings–but never their faith in themselves or in America. Families moved in their basements and rented out their upstairs. Families took in relatives who lost their homes. Everyone somehow found work or started a business fixing, selling, or doing something.
Almost every family back then also had a father, uncle, or brother who had served overseas for World War II or Korea. They rarely spoke of the awful things they had seen. But when they did, they reminded us of how lucky they were to live here in America. My Dad and many of them also mentioned their outrage over racial discrimination they had seen when stationed in the South, and how they pushed back against it.
Today, everything is different. Too many of your young people feel entitled to middle class wealth and comfort just by being born here. Very few understand what our parents and grandparents did to create that wealth and comfort in the first place. Even fewer understand how our culture of liberty and limited, constitutional government based on “the sentiments” in the Declaration of Independence” made that possible.
Instead, our schools, media, and Hollywood and TV pop culture falsely and relentlessly blame America for mistakes and injustices that occur in every nation of imperfect humans–but much less often and severely here than anywhere else.
If you remember the stories of how your family achieved the American Dream, please use the July 4 holiday as an excuse to tell them to your children. If not, talk to a friend, relative, or neighbor who does. Like Holocaust survivors, we are rapidly dying out. And please let me send you our colorful postcard that recites the “self-evident” truths of our Declaration of Independence. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me, Seth Grossman, at (609) 927-7333. Thanks.