TODAY America again celebrates her freedom.
Nearly two centuries have passed since the bells of Philadelphia pealed--and a brave people declared themselves free.
Americans did not invent freedom. For thousands of years, men had cherished it and risked their lives to win it for themselves and their children. In ancient Athens, Thucydides wrote:
"Through efforts and suffering and on many a stricken field we have found out the secret of human power, which is the secret of happiness. Men have guessed at it under many names; but we alone have learnt to know it and to make it at home in our city. And the name we know it by is freedom .... "
Of all the blessings of our Nation, freedom is surely the most precious. It has given us not only prosperity as a people, but pride in ourselves and a secure place in mankind's history.
Today, even as we celebrate, let us not forget the price that those who love freedom must ever be ready to pay.
As fireworks flash in our skies, let us remember the cannons flaming across the seas. As we fly the flag before our homes, let us remember the sons of America who carry it in battle. As here men parade and proud bugles sound, let us remember the place where the parade is a careful march across a mined field, and the sounds are of fearful battle.
These bitter contrasts--and their meaning-should be in the mind of every American this day. For the freedom we celebrate is ours only because of the valor of brave Americans who were--and are--willing to die for it.
We owe freedom not only our celebration, but our commitment. It is a necessary burden-as well as a national birthright.
Freedom is a gift to be cherished, yes, but it is also a gift to be shared; and in sharing it, we strengthen it everywhere, at home and abroad. The efforts we have made in this century to help others win or regain their freedom have been indispensable to preserving our own.
Finally, let us, in our celebration today, offer a prayer of thanks for freedom and the blessings it has brought us. Let us look again to the divine providence, to whom Jefferson appealed. Let us ask Him to help us find the courage, the wisdom, and the commitment that will make the future of our freedom as bright as its past.