If We Will Not Work
For Freedom ...

Melville H. Nahin

July is traditionally called the Month of Independence. To our children, this means freedom from the daily routine of school; it means being able to sleep a little later in the morning, to spend the daytime hours playing with their friends, to stay up a little later in the evening and, perhaps, to go to a Dodger game with Dad. It means going to camp or on vacation with the folks. Oh happy, happy July, the month of freedom.

To adults also, July means warm summer evenings, perhaps a barbecue or a picnic; it means vacation time from the daily duties of our jobs—perhaps more golf, a fishing trip or so, camping out, traveling or just that couple of extra hours of sleep in the morning. Oh happy July, the month of freedom.

July is traditionally called the Month of Independence. Isn’t that the way we began this message? Well then, why repeat it? Somehow it seems to me that this month has a greater significance than previously discussed. Somehow it seems to me that the Hancocks, the Franklins, the Jeffersons had something more in mind when they declared those historic concepts in 1776. Somehow this month means even more than those patriotic speeches, the fireworks, the playing of our national anthem which have become a part—or perhaps even the whole—of our observance of the Fourth of July, the anniversary of the birth of our independence. A prominent writer* once suggested: “Nations can be formed in many ways. Geography or climate, prince or diplomat, cultural expansion or brutal war—each has been a force by itself or in combination with others in the creation of nations. America, however, is unique. America was born of an idea. Freedom. Pilgrims seeking religious freedom came. Peasants searching for economic freedom came. Minorities yearning for cultural freedom came. Workers wanting individual freedom came. The revolution broke forever any remaining ties to Old World ways. Americans were determined to be and remain free.”

I wonder how many of us today are willing to pledge “our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor” to obtain and maintain those freedoms which we seem so ready to take for granted. I wonder, for that matter, how many of us even bother to spend ten minutes at election time to vote for or even against those men and women who are seeking to lead our state and our nation. I wonder how many will be too busy enjoying their freedom to vote when we elect the next President of the United States.

We who constitute the vast bulk of the nation’s electorate are inclined to rant and rave when we see or hear the extremists of the left or the right in action. But they act! Do we? Benjamin Franklin, the distinguished leader of the American Revolution, raised this succinct remark “If we will not work for freedom, most assuredly, freedom will not work for us.”

What then is my point? Just another Fourth of July oration? I certainly hope not. All the pleasures we have, I want to keep. All of the things that freedom and independence mean, I want to enjoy. But I know also that unless I’m willing to do more than give lip service to these principles, I won’t have my freedom very long. There are those both at home and abroad who will see to that. During our festivities this July, let us pause a moment and reflect. What about us? Are we working for freedom? If not, freedom most assuredly will not work for us.