Independence Day 2020
On July 4, 1863, the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi at Vicksburg surrendered to the Union armies. It was Independence Day, and as the news reached Washington, D.C., a crowd gathered outside the White House; President Abraham Lincoln came outside to speak about the significance of the moment.
President Lincoln took this opportunity to remind his fellow citizens, and all those in the government, of the great ideals of the American union of the states. He asked them to think of the victory in Vicksburg and all of the other battles that had been fought in the Civil War as conflicts rooted in the great ideas that were framed in the American Constitution and the founding documents of the United States of America.
Drawing attention to the fact that the victory at Vicksburg had come on July 4, some 87 years after the original signing of the Declaration of Independence, he reaffirmed the issues at the heart of the Civil War: “On the 4th the cohorts of those who opposed the declaration that all men are created equal, ‘turned tail’ and ran.”
Independence Day, 2020, and once again the republic is in turmoil. The pandemic has exacted an enormous price from us in terms of human life, in our freedom to move freely, and in economic turmoil and cost. The citizenry of our country are rightfully concerned that the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence continued to be denied to Black Americans. The discredited symbols of the Confederacy have become divisive symbols of systemic racism.
Amid the turmoil, one can almost hear President Lincoln again, calling us to confront those who oppose the declaration that all men are created equal. On July 4, 2020, the battle for freedom continues, and the grand vision of our democracy is still ours to fight for.
As you seek ways to safely celebrate this Independence Day holiday—replete with barbecues and picnics that minimize risk, virtual events and celebrations, socially distanced parades, and stars-and-stripes themed face masks—remember the ideals to which we are called as a people and as a nation, remember the sacrifices that have been made for freedom, and renew again your personal commitment to the ideals found in the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Happy Independence Day!