July 4, 2020

Reflection on July 4th

My boyhood home in suburban Philadelphia was 15 miles from Valley Forge, and 25 miles from the Liberty Bell.

As a Boy Scout, I camped at Valley Forge. As a devotee of history, I often visited Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, where, believe it or not, you could stand right next to the Liberty Bell and run your fingers along its surface to inspect the famous crack that doomed the bell’s useful life.

I loved all the history and the grandeur of those places, and I cherish the memories.

But times change. The Liberty Bell since 1976 has been protected behind glass. No longer can you pitch a tent on the hallowed fields of Valley Forge.

And in the ensuing years, I’ve come to hear the sound of freedom differently.

Where once I may have blindly celebrated only the past, today I recognize that cries we hear for justice are cries for freedom unrealized.

Our nation’s mission statement, the Declaration of Independence, declares that equality for everyone is “self-evident.” Clearly, that noble goal of equality gets lost in the fog. Who among us can say that black Americans and immigrants and women have ever been regarded as equally as straight, white men?

Nelson Mandela, the Anti-apartheid freedom fighter and former South African President, who dedicated his life to fighting oppression, wrote of freedom with a quote I admire. “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains,” Mandela said in his autobiography, “but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

The opening words of our U.S. Constitution proclaim that we want to work towards “a more perfect Union.” It’s another virtuous goal, and one that, along with my faith understanding that “all are equal in the eyes of God,” is what compels me to seek elective office.

So when it seems that I’m critical of our Missouri legislature, it’s because I know we can do better in so many ways.

We are better when we work to help those less fortunate.

We are better when we acknowledge the dignity of all working women and men.

We are better when we help all people enhance their quality of life by boosting opportunities for health care, education, and jobs.

I want us to be better. And I’m guessing you do, too.