On This Most American of Days, Anything Is Still Possible
By Steve Schmidt
This Tuesday, July 4, 2023, marks the 248th anniversary of the independence of the United States of America.
On that night, Americans across a vast geography will look up into the sky at fireworks marking the occasion that are the fulfillment of a wish. The wish came from one of our founders – a brilliant, talented, passionate man who could be brittle, easily provoked, arrogant, and sometimes distempered. John Adams said he hoped that “Independence Day will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival…It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade with shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
This is our day. We all share this together, equally, for we are all Americans together. We are citizens of a Republic that has endured 248 years of challenge, heartbreak, triumph, loss, injustice, war and suffering.
When the Revolution was won, there were three million Americans and 13 states. Seven hundred thousand people were enslaved.
Today, there are 334 million of us. We are the descendants of both the founding generation and the people of every nation on Earth. The United States of America is the only nation on Earth that is made up of all of the peoples of Earth, where every known language is spoken every day. Together, the American people have fed, cured, liberated, protected, and done more general good in the world than all of the other nations combined since the beginning of time.
Freedom in America means tolerance. It means freedom of speech, conscience, worship and thought. It also means responsibility and obligation to each other.
July 4th marks a milestone of human imagination and daring. It proclaims the possibility of a new birth of freedom and dignity for the human being. It also lays bare the contradictions and hypocrisies of our founding, while being an incandescent beacon in a moment that ruptured history.
The birth of the United States of America marks the beginning of an epoch. It was the start of a stupendous and unfolding story that, like all great stories, is made in parts from pain, joy, myth, triumph, failure, hypocrisy, good and evil. The story of America is the story of imperfect human beings forging ahead into the next moment on an unexplored frontier. It is a story about the battle of idealism and cynicism, of right and wrong, of justice and injustice.
More than anything, it is a love story.
Government of the People, by the People, for the People is a relatively new concept in the annals of human history. It was an utterly radical idea in 1776, and then there was a thunderclap. There were perfect words laid down on paper by a deeply imperfect man. They declared something remarkable that had never been said before. The men who signed the document containing them believed it likely that they were signing their death warrants. These words are transcendent, and it is what we celebrate on the night of July 4th with gratitude and joy.
“All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Some may say that there is injustice and deep corruption in our society, and therefore, those words are meaningless and shouldn’t be celebrated. They could not be more wrong. American citizenship means having the privilege to assert the God-given rights to fix what is broken, and perfect the Union that endures as an idea, experiment and promise.
Where are we going? What lies ahead? It is hard to know through the temporary sound and fury of division and tumult. Yet, we know where it ends. Martin Luther King Jr. told us.
He looked ahead to the horizon over a vast valley of justice in a free society where the promise of the American Revolution had been fulfilled.
Here is what he said:
“I’ve been to the mountaintop…I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”
Let us choose to believe Martin Luther King Jr. We know we can trust him.
Let us choose to believe in America. We know that we can trust her.
Let us choose love over hate, and service over complaint.
Let us choose to take a moment and be grateful for the sacrifices, vision, guts, determination, wisdom and failures of our ancestors with deep humility.
Let us resolve to take up the challenges ahead with the gratitude of free people who are authors of tomorrow, not its prisoners.
America is a gift and an idea. It is a myth and a contradiction. It is bluegrass, country music and a lawn chair parade in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.
Whatever America is today, she can become something new and better tomorrow. That is what we celebrate. Possibility. Hope. Justice. Freedom.
God Bless America.