And I will grant that there are many who live their lives in this country without that unrestricted freedom, the freedom to exercise all their rights, to live without fear that their human and personal rights are not violated (again, that is tangential, but important to understand). Just as with power comes responsibility, so does freedom come with it.
I watch the news sometimes and wonder if we have lost our sense of obligation to the greater good as a nation - in that the actions of the individual serve to benefit the multitudes and not just the individual. For what good does it do for one person to rise high when all those around him remain low? And this is not condoning the welfare state, this is saying that doesn't each person deserve the chance to rise high, and, - this is where I think we sometimes misconstrue the definition of freedom - in order to deliver that chance, each individual must take responsibility to better not only themselves but that which is around them, so that we preserve that which was given to us. For if we devolve, act selfishly, pursuing only our own ends, what do we give to those who come next?
If I see freedom as my ability to do whatever I want, does that mean it doesn't matter if it serves no one else? Is that what our forefathers fought for or was it the belief that each of us has a right to self-destiny, that in seeking our own way, in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness we become stronger because our destinies are no longer dictated by place of birth, economic strata or even color? The Declaration of Independence is both a political and philosophical declaration, establishing for our young nation the right to determine our own fate, one by which our rights are abided and respected. We didn't gain only the right to ordain our own future as individuals, we also assumed the responsibility for carrying our nation forward with those liberties intact.
In addition, what do we know of tyranny or despotism today - I warrant only what we see on the television screen (unless you serve in some capacity) - and we shake our heads, lamenting how horrible it must be for those people to be under such rules and restrictions. The phrase "freedom isn't free" isn't only applicable to the service of the military, it is applicable to all of us on whom these munificient gifts have been bestowed. We must work for it, nurture it, and preserve its vital essence so that those who come next cherish it as we do.
When you watch the fireworks tonight, I only ask that you remember what they symbolize and that, perhaps, we seek our individual destinies in a way that better enables all of us to do so.
I leave you with a few quotes:
"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same." - Ronald Reagan
"For 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." - Nelson Mandela
"A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom." - Bob Dylan
"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." - Abraham Lincoln