On this day, we celebrate our freedom as a nation. While it announced our freedom from European rule, the Declaration of Independence also outlined the founding principles of liberty and equality behind a just and fair government whose political authority lay in the power of the people.
We sometimes forget that the individual liberties and freedoms afforded to us also carry with them a duty: the duty to value not only our own independence, but also that of others. My own liberty means less as long as a neighbor lacks freedom.
Our nation was born as a grand experiment in liberty, seeking to perfect freedom. Though we have been less than perfect in practice, we have shown a capacity to learn. That is our strength and our promise to the future.
My two grandfathers were interned during World War II. The irony was that my great grandparents were not, though they were the ones who were the original immigrants. My mother’s father was interned at Honouliuli on Oahu. He never spoke of the experience with bitterness but would tell me, “War is not good. It makes man do things that you can’t explain.” I am certain we have learned from the injustices of the internment of our citizens.
Indeed, our experiment in liberty continues. Independence today must be appreciated as a thing both held dear and shared freely. As the country copes with a struggling economy, unemployment, the oil crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, we face many great challenges. Independence grows harder to achieve as we find ourselves increasingly entangled in other interests. However, we know that it is with continued commitment and an ongoing effort to perfect liberty that we can be hopeful that one day every individual, state, and nation will enjoy the same inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Despite differing political and religious views, throughout cultures, and across generations, freedom is a universal value each and every individual holds dearest, at whatever cost. The founding principles of liberty and equality that the Declaration of Independence affords us have indeed come at a very great cost. On this day, we also remember and reflect on those who fought and paid the ultimate sacrifice for all, laying the very foundation of peace and freedom that we enjoy today. We owe a profound debt to you.
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