‘The great cause of freedom’
It was in 2003 that Pittsburgh-born and –bred historian David McCullough gave a most insightful lecture at a gathering of the National Endowment for the Humanities. As we celebrate the 242nd birth of our great republic, it is only fitting that his concluding words from that presentation be shared below:
“One of our innumerable advantages as a nation and a society is that we have such a specific moment of origin as the year 1776. And that we know who the Founders were — indeed we know an immense amount about an immense number of those at all levels who in that revolutionary time brought the United States of America and the reality of freedom into being.
“But while it is essential to remember them as individual mortal beings no more perfect in every way than are we, and that they themselves knew this better than anyone, it is also essential to understand that they knew their own great achievements to be imperfect and incomplete.
“The American experiment was from its start an unfulfilled promise. There was much work to be done. There were glaring flaws to correct, unfinished business to attend to, improvements and necessary adjustments to devise in order to keep pace with the onrush of growth and change and expanding opportunities.
“Those brave, high-minded people of earlier times gave us stars to steer by — a government of laws not of men, equal justice before the law, the importance of the individual, the ideal of equality, freedom of religion, freedom of thought and expression, and the love of learning.
“From them, in our own dangerous and promising present, we can take heart. As Edith Hamilton said of the Greeks, we can ‘catch sight of values that are stable because they are the hard-won possessions of humanity.’
“Blessed we are. And duty bound, to continue the great cause of freedom, in their spirit and in their memory and for those who are to carry on next in their turn.
“There is still much work to be done, still much to learn.
“’We hold these truths to be self-evident, that 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 … ‘
“On we go,” McCullough concluded.
For go on we must.
Happy Independence Day, everyone.
Colin McNickle is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (firstname.lastname@example.org)