Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What Makes America Great

On a hot July day in 1776, the sun shined bright through the windows of Independence Hall. Outside, residents of Philadelphia whispered expectantly on what was happening behind closed doors. Inside, John Adams looked over to Benjamin Franklin in triumph, as Thomas Jefferson sat on a window sill, gazing proudly at his work. Above all of them were the murmurs of the Second Continental Congress, who talked nervously of what they had just done.

Human emotion boiled over when scholars decreed that the colonies were free and independent. Shouts of joy from many, cries of fear from some, and tears from most. Even before the United States had won its freedom, before it won peace from the King, before it it stood by itself, this nation had the very Liberty that makes it great to this day.

The definition of Liberty is not simple; it is many things to many people. But Liberty is indeed the right to speak your mind, live your life, free your body from the oppression of the government or of anyone else. It means that you have the right to live without the government, within law, and that you can express yourself in anyway you see fit. You can be the person you want to be. That is how you define Liberty, but of more consequence, Liberty defines America.

Liberty is our greatest right, and it may be the very right that leads to all others. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of your mind from believing what the majority tell you is derived from Liberty. The point is clear: that without the right to speak your mind and live your life, there would be no rights at all.

But to this very day, Liberty is what makes America great, as it did on that hot summer day in 1776. It was human emotion and human perseverance that brought our Founding Fathers to the decision that the thirteen colonies of America had to be free and independent. The Liberty of thought pushed them to fight and suffer and scream in the night for freedom that some of them were never able to enjoy, their bloody faces covered in the snow. The right to be human was all-consuming.

Liberty led our fore-fathers to write our Constitution and ask God for guidance. It led them to persevere through the Civil War, through the great evil of slavery, and it led them to realize that, to have Liberty, everyone must have freedom or no one. The ability to live the way you want led our great grandfathers to die in the trenches of Germany, it led our grandmothers to the factories to help secure victory, it led our grandfathers to die on the shores of Normandy, and it led our fathers to die on the fields of Iraq.

Yet in their death, they assured that very Liberty was secured for us. This is the greatest irony of the United States of America: freedom is secured for all because our countrymen die protecting it. Some of those who have died, even will die ten or twenty years from now, will never enjoy the rights we take for granted. But that is the love of Liberty: even in death, it is preserved. The right to be free, the right to live without fear of consequence, the right to worship, but above all, the right to be what you want to be... that is what makes America great.

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