A new birth of freedom


by Steve Young | July 5, 2009 • It is the afternoon of July 5, 2009 and I am disappointed sitting at home watching Tiger Woods win another golf tournament. Yesterday, the 4th of July has passed, it seems, without any public comment on a stupendous achievement of the American People, quite in line with the Declaration of Independence.

The Fifth Column – Stephen B. Young, Global Executive Director of the Caux Round Table, is a lawyer and writer. He has served as Dean of the Hamline University School of Law and as an Assistant Dean at Harvard Law School.

Our President is only half white. His father was an African immigrant.

For every 4th of July since 1776 until yesterday, the moral promise of the Declaration of Independence has been only partially kept.

We have prided ourselves each year as patriots on creating a nation, new to human custom, where “all men are created equal” in the powerful words of the Declaration. And yet that was not true. First chattel slavery and then Jim Crow racism kept many Americans separate in an imposed status of non-white difference and subordination and alienated from the promise of freedom to enjoy their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

With the election of Barack Obama last year, the Declaration is now closer to all of us and we are all closer to its ideals and its dream of liberty in responsible community.

As Martin Luther King once said, the arc of history is long, but it tends towards justice.

We have much in our past to be proud of, and that part of our past which has tended towards justice should be celebrated more passionately this year and in years to come.

And those parts of our past which have been out of alignment with the arc of history can be more acceptably remembered, if all the more morally rejected, now that we as a people have responded more fully to the laws of nature and have risen higher in the estimation of Nature’s God, as the Declaration would put it.

After the slaughter and sacrifices of Gettysburg, Lincoln spoke of “a new birth of freedom”. He was right, of course. There was a new birth of freedom won in the Civil War. But the task of living up to the ideals of the Declaration as a nation was still unfinished.

This 4th of July we can toast a nation that has taken a giant step in completing that work.

As the song has it:

America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.

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