July 4th is Independence Day in America. Which makes us contemplate: What is liberty? What is freedom? Liberty is the right to choose. Freedom is the result of the right choice. As we celebrate liberty, we should also reflect on the repressive regimes around the globe and be grateful for the freedom we enjoy in our country.
We should thank God for our nation’s founders and their bravery in writing and signing the Declaration of Independence. Today, despite what people may think, the American flag is still a universally recognized symbol and beacon of hope that stands for liberty and freedom.
Just as patriots long ago, we are bound together by a common destiny. Citizenship in this nation connects all Americans. That is why citizenship matters. We are a nation bound not by race or religion, but by the shared values of liberty and freedom.
Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned, understood what loss of freedom meant. He wrote: “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Too many want freedom for themselves, and yet seek to withhold it from others. Too many do not comprehend the high price that has been paid for that freedom.
It is our responsibility to teach the next generation our heritage and to pass the torch of liberty to those who come after us. Freedom gives us the power and opportunity to make choices over one’s own life. We should be constantly reminded that it is our responsibility to accept the consequences of those choices.
The Declaration of Independence, with the unforgettable elegance of words forged by Thomas Jefferson, fueled the American spirit and still gives meaning even today. Those who think the best days of our country are behind us, are overlooking the formidable will of their fellow Americans. Those who signed the Declaration of Independence made great sacrifices. They pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. Freedom requires sacrifice.
America is not perfect. We will never be perfect, and our founders understood that fact. However, with the active and informed participation of our citizens, we can still find solutions to the problems we face collectively, even if imperfectly.
Celebrate our nation’s rich heritage this Independence Day. Let freedom ring. The citizens of the world see and hear. From every mountain top, let freedom ring! When we focus on what unites us, rather than what divides us, liberty is proclaimed in the land and freedom prevails.
JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.