My fellow Americans:
Happy Fourth of July! I've been thinking about the Fourth of July, 1976—8 years ago. Do you remember that great Bicentennial Day?
In New York, the tall ships came sailing up the Hudson, and in Boston, the rousing music of Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops had all of that city standing and cheering. In Baltimore, they had great parades, and in Philadelphia, they brought out the Liberty Bell and had a group of schoolchildren pat it with their hands so that it would make a sound without upsetting the crack in the bell.
A person who was there tells me that thousands of people surrounded the Liberty Bell, quietly and with respect. And then, a young fellow started to sing "God Bless America." And it spread through the crowd. And people were left quite hushed with happiness when it was over.
It was a wonderful day, and ever since, the Fourth of July has been as special as it was back in older times when it ranked with Christmas as an important day, a time for families to come together and for neighborhoods to explode with bright lights.
America still has so much to celebrate on this day—unity and affection, prosperity and freedom. Today, on July 4, 1984, there will be fireworks to commemorate that moment when Francis Scott Key saw through the glare of the rockets that our flag was still there. Somewhere a chorus will sing the old songs of love and affection for our country. Somewhere a family will gather and salute the flag. Somewhere a veteran will be told, "Thanks for what you did." And in a courthouse somewhere, some of the newest Americans, the most recent immigrants to our country, will take the oath of citizenship.
Maybe today, someone will put his hand on the shoulder of one of those new citizens and say, "Welcome," and not just as a courtesy, but to say welcome to a great land, a place of unlimited possibilities. Welcome to the American family.
There are all kinds of people in that family, and they live in all kinds of conditions and circumstances. Perhaps you know an older person, a senior citizen who feels a little left out by all the younger people around him. Maybe you could take that person aside and ask, "What was the Fourth of July like in your earliest memories?" You might hear some pretty interesting stories. Perhaps there's someone who's lonely in your neighborhood, someone whose friends all left for the holidays, or a girl or boy who are pretty much on their own. Maybe today someone will invite one of them over to the barbecue.
Somewhere today I hope we will all pause for a brief moment and think of all we have to be thankful for and of the great future that lies before us.
The spirit of our nation is strong. The freedoms our forefathers won for us endure. We still stand for freedom throughout the world, which is why immigrants still come to us. No one emigrates to Cuba or jumps over the wall into East Berlin or seeks refuge in the Soviet Union. Those who look for freedom seek sanctuary here.
The United States is a leader in a world turning, day by day, toward freedom. In Central America and Africa and elsewhere, the tide of the future is a freedom tide. The impulse to create democratic government not only endures; it grows, and that, in spite of real resistance from those who believe in freedom not a bit.
Other countries see our entrepreneurial spirit and seek to emulate it. They see how a vigorous, free society allows man to move on and grow. They see how we're trying to make life better for man through scientific inquiry. They see us pushing into space. Other systems are locked on to the land, prisoners of a gravity of their own devising. America is a rocket, pushing upward and outward into space, into human history.
We have 208 years of history behind us. But somehow, these days, we know the whole world is before us. And we can feel as Teddy Roosevelt did when he surveyed the world at the turn of the century. He said, "We Americans see across the dangers the great future that lies beyond, and we rejoice as a giant refreshed, as a strong man ready for the race. The great victories are yet to be won; the greatest deeds yet to be done. There are yet in store for our people and for the causes we uphold, grander triumphs than have ever yet been
Well, so it is, and it will be. Despite our differences and disagreements, this is happy, decent, united country. The bells still ring for America. A philosopher said recently, "And for that, we must be truly grateful."
Happy Fourth of July! May God bless you, and may He continue to bless the Nation He showered with His love for more than two centuries.