Ronald Reagan wrote the following for Independence Day in 1981. It was not written by someone else for the President. These are Mr. (President at the time) Reagan’s own words that were written with his own hand:
“What July Fourth Means to Me”
By Ronald Reagan
For one who was born and grew up in the small towns of the Midwest, there is a special kind of nostalgia about the Fourth of July.
I remember it as a day almost as long-anticipated as Christmas. This was helped along by the appearance in store windows of all kinds of fireworks and colorful posters advertising them with vivid pictures.
No later than the third of July – sometimes earlier – Dad would bring home what he felt he could afford to see go up in smoke and flame. We’d count and recount the number of firecrackers, display pieces and other things and go to bed determined to be up with the sun so as to offer the first, thunderous notice of the Fourth of July.
I’m afraid we didn’t give too much thought to the meaning of the day. And, yes, there were tragic accidents to mar it, resulting from careless handling of the fireworks. I’m sure we’re better off today with fireworks largely handled by professionals. Yet there was a thrill never to be forgotten in seeing a tin can blown 30 feet in the air by a giant “cracker” – giant meaning it was about 4 inches long. But enough of nostalgia.
Somewhere in our growing up we began to be aware of the meaning of days and with that awareness came the birth of patriotism. July Fourth is the birthday of our nation. I believed as a boy, and believe even more today, that it is the birthday of the greatest nation on earth.
There is a legend about the day of our nation’s birth in the little hall in Philadelphia, a day on which debate had raged for hours. The men gathered there were honorable men hard-pressed by a king who had flouted the very laws they were willing to obey. Even so, to sign the Declaration of Independence was such an irretrievable act that the walls resounded with the words “treason, the gallows, the headsman’s axe,” and the issue remained in doubt.
The legend says that at that point a man rose and spoke. He is described as not a young man, but one who had to summon all his energy for an impassioned plea. He cited the grievances that had brought them to this moment and finally, his voice falling, he said, “They may turn every tree into a gallows, every hole into a grave, and yet the words of that parchment can never die. To the mechanic in the workshop, they will speak hope; to the slave in the mines, freedom. Sign that parchment. Sign if the next moment the noose is around your neck, for that parchment will be the textbook of freedom, the Bible of the rights of man forever.”
He fell back exhausted. The 56 delegates, swept up by his eloquence, rushed forward and signed that document destined to be as immortal as a work of man can be. When they turned to thank him for his timely oratory, he was not to be found, nor could any be found who knew who he was or how he had come in or gone out through the locked and guarded doors.
Well, that is the legend. But we do know for certain that 56 men, a little band so unique we have never seen their like since, had pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Some gave their lives in the war that followed, most gave their fortunes, and all preserved their sacred honor.
What manner of men were they? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists, 11 were merchants and tradesmen, and nine were farmers. They were soft-spoken men of means and education; they were not an unwashed rabble. They had achieved security but valued freedom more. Their stories have not been told nearly enough.
John Hart was driven from the side of his desperately ill wife. For more than a year he lived in the forest and in caves before he returned to find his wife dead, his children vanished, his property destroyed. He died of exhaustion and a broken heart.
Carter Braxton of Virginia lost all his ships, sold his home to pay his debts, and died in rags. And so it was with Ellery, Clymer, Hall, Walton, Gwinnett, Rutledge, Morris, Livingston and Middleton. Nelson personally urged Washington to fire on his home and destroy it when it became the headquarters for General Cornwallis. Nelson died bankrupt.
But they sired a nation that grew from sea to shining sea. Five million farms, quiet villages, cities that never sleep, 3 million square miles of forest, field, mountain and desert, 227 million people with a pedigree that includes the bloodlines of all the world. In recent years, however, I’ve come to think of that day as more than just the birthday of a nation.
It also commemorates the only true philosophical revolution in all history.
Oh, there have been revolutions before and since ours. But those revolutions simply exchanged one set of rules for another. Ours was a revolution that changed the very concept of government.
Let the Fourth of July always be a reminder that here in this land, for the first time, it was decided that man is born with certain God-given rights; that government is only a convenience created and managed by the people, with no powers of its own except those voluntarily granted to it by the people.
We sometimes forget that great truth, and we never should.
Happy Fourth of July.
Ronald Reagan, President of the United States
Sorry to be a day late, but:
from across the sea from the old world.
Marianne in Norway,
whose Constitution, from 1814, was based in large measure on the American and also on the French.
Thank you, Marianne! Old glory is still waving by the grace of God.
I didn’t know that Norway’s Constitution was influenced by the American one. America is still a young nation compared to so many in your part of the world.
I am concerned about the state of our nation at present as so many are forgetting about the words written by Mr. Reagan:
“man is born with certain God-given rights;”
This problem has caused us to forget some of the following as well:
“…government is only a convenience created and managed by the people, with no powers of its own except those voluntarily granted to it by the people.”
The people and what they believe are the key, in my opinion.
For a day or so I will leave these issues aside and celebrate the blessings that have come to me through those who were able to wisely attempt to create something that a godly group of citizens could celebrate: a government “of the people, by the people, for the people” as so well stated by another famous president.
When you return to “issues”, here is a thought:
Yes, the countries in the Old World have a longer history, but their present day way of government is by and large younger than the one of the USA. The hierarchic structures of Europe, with aristocracy and royalty, were very much the REASON why the Americans broke away from taking that way of thinking for granted and invented their own truly revolutionary one. The 17 hundreds, particularly in France, the time of enlightenment, paved the way, but in France itself the new did not altogether break through; on the contrary: the revolution got very bloody and tragic, and Napoleon was no liberal.
I am sometimes struck by what I call “the Italian way of banking”, meaning: The Italians invented the banking system, but it worked quite well, so they didn’t change it much since. In the 1970 they still practiced a very cumbersome way of recording it if you cashed a cheque or took out money from your account. – In Switzerland they broke away from royal/aristocratic rule and set up their own very early; that worked so well that they never modernised it much and were e.g just about the last European state where women got the vote.
– When it comes to freedom, it is a complex questions. Living in a society, nobody can be completely free in the sense of doing absolutely anything they like in the face of the needs and wants of others. Across the Atlantic, I have met a number of Americans who seem to think “like Italian bankers” about Europe: that royalty and aristocracy in Europe is still just about the same as it was 300 years ago. They have the most curious ideas of our kings and queens still holding power and suspect that we are serfs under them. Actually, monarchies in Europe are completely transformed and the modern European royals, if they work for the state at all, hold seremonial positions, kind of symbols and ideals, help along in foreign representation, travel around in the commuties in their own country celebrating local efforts and advances, give encouraging speeches, and so on. The changes have taken place slowly, some it it through pieces of legislation, some of it by new customs and habits developing.
Our present king and queen choose one county each year to visit especially and travel a lot besides. The queen is keen on mountain tramping and she paints pictures. (She held an exhibition in New York not so long ago. The Americans were surpised that she dressed casually when up the mountains!) Our king sometimes also gives speeches, like at New Year, and serious speeches about important matters, but they are matters which have matured, like apologising on behalf of all of us to groups who have been badly treated previously, and he can never go against the government. There are some occasions where it really matters what they say and do, as when our king Haakon refused to comply with the Germans when they invaded the country in 1940. Norway owes him and his son, who was also grown-up at the time, an immense thanks for being an unequalled inspiration for the way we resisted and fought, and for fighting actively themselves. Even earlier generations of our royal rulers have by and large been beneficial in their doings, and they have certainly had to cooperate with parliament and the bureaucracy and with the ordinary citizenry. The last Danish-Norwegian king with absolute power was visited by the irate group of tradesmen and business men in Copenhagen who told him that they’d had enough, so he immediately, surprised and frightened, gave them all the rights they wanted. – People’s ideas about our royals today may vary and the relationship is perhaps a bit subtle, but they certainly do not block or spoil democracy.
I think maybe the “American ideas” of European royals are illustrated by an old movie: “Call me Madam”. This was a musical with enjoyable singing and dancing, and I remember seeing it back in the 1950s. I looked at some snippets from it on youtube again not so long ago, and I asked myself: Apart from being a love story and a musical, why did anybody even in the 1950s find the STORY interesting? It seems without surprise and completely predictable. In the end I thought: Ah! It was/is the American idea of European royalty. Maybe they find them exciting, like Martians! There is a young princess, she renouces the throne and marries the easy-going American from the embassy, who asks her big-eyed questions about etiquette, she “issues” a royal command for him to kiss her, etc. It’s good fun, but gives a fairytale-like idea of royals being sort of a different species.
Thank you for sharing such an informative comment, Marianne. It is always great to get an educated view from “outside” and, at the same time, see the thoughts of someone inside a country that most Americans know little about.
It is interesting that the American government has lasted longer than many in Europe. I’m sure there are many reasons including the two world wars that shook things up a bit.
“The hierarchic structures of Europe, with aristocracy and royalty, were very much the REASON why the Americans broke away.”
Good point, Marianne. One of my favorite books is “Around the World in 80 Days.” You are probably familiar with Phileas Fogg. His character seems predictable but, after all is done, he remains a complex fellow to me. He represents a proper Englishman with all of the “regulation” that goes with it, kind of like “Red coats” marching in line right into a Revolutionary ambush. No matter. He doesn’t flinch even when the chips are down. Many of the early Americans had this trait and much of it came from adventurous types from Europe who had had enough of the hierarchic structures you mention.
I was not aware of the influence the Italians had and have on banking.
I do know that your Royalty gets almost no attention in America when compared to Britain’s Royalty. They seem to be in our news constantly.
I’ve not seen “Call Me Madam” but my wife and I enjoy old movies. I will have to see if our library has it.
Americans still have ideas of fairy-tale endings but, sadly, some of the good points of “When I wish upon a star” is not as much a part of the culture as it once was.
We are a harsher nation than we were when I was a kid.
Sadly: Isn’t everybody? (harsher – -)
Let’s have some fun on youtube – From “Call Me Madam”:
First time hero and heroine meet ,in a shop
The princess taking part in “folk dancing”
At a ball (Vera Ellen and Donald O’Connor are of course among the very top dancers in Hollywood (and everywhere, for that matter), Vera Ellen perhaps the very top, O’Connor and other fine dancers outshined only by Fred Astaire, don’t you think?)
Same ball, the idea being that the sprightly Americans jazz up the stiff, formal Europeans! (Well, there may be something in that….)
They meet, some secretly, in a wine cellar
Ambassador and her assistant with a “practical, American reazction to being in love”
Repeat of wondering about love(starts at about 3:25) – Incidentally, she speaks on the phone obviously to Harry Truman, who recalls her to America, so the love possibilities seem lost. Then at 6:45 it switches to the end of the film.
“Isn’t everybody?” I think so too, sadly, Marianne.
How cool is this? We need to have some fun these days so thank you very much. I’m looking forward to watching each clip. May even do some running commentary as I’ve been known to do from time to time.
On the Fred Astaire/Donald O’Connor question I must admit that I haven’t seen enough of Fred Astaire to compare them. Wow, was Donald O’Connor an athlete or what? I saw him in “Singing in the Rain” and, as I recall, he literally danced up the side of a wall.
Thank you again, Marianne. I’ll put some feedback here (and probably spare you the running commentary depending on my mood) after I have watched them all!
What on earth? I wrote
“The last Danish-Norwegian king with absolute power was visited by the irate group of tradesmen and business men in Copenhagen who told him that they’d had enough, so he immediately, surprised and frightened, gave them all the rights they wanted.”
So Frederik 7th was just a DANISH king.
It just shows that I am no historian. It took place in 1849, by which time Norway had been given to the Swedish king. Ooh hooh, how can I make such a fool of myself?
Don’t feel too badly, Marianne. I saw the date “1849” and immediately thought of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad here in the U.S. Upon checking, it was 1869 and not 1849 when the railroad was completed. There was a gold rush going on in that year in California that started in 1848, but no railroad.
I’ve taught American history several times, which makes me no expert of course, but to get a date of something major like that wrong? All I can say is “I feel your pain.”
No, I am not going to go into mourning. But it was so idiotic not to use my head, because the agreement reached then with the Danish king Frederik 7 actually implied the creation of the first Danish parliament. And THAT should have made me sit up, because Norway had its constitution and the establishment of its parliament from 1814 (for that reason a central date in Norway’s history), as one of the results of the Napoleonic wars, so 1) the establishment of a parliament in Norway could not have been BEFORE 1814, and 2) nor could it have happened later.
The thread is getting thin again, Marianne, so I am starting another.
(The entries are becoming too narrow, so this is a reply to your last):
Dancing on the wall or ceiling was a film trick! but I agree that “Singing in the Rain” was very enjoyable, a hurmorous parody on Hollywood itself!
Oooh, search for Fred Astaire clips – there are lots!
Yes, those were, on the surface at least, innocent times. But that’s the way it appeared in movies. The stark realities of the two world wars, and the unstability in the twenties, the Wall Street crack the final disaster, and then years and years in its wake of unemployment and right out starvation…. I wonder, Chris, if thoughts about the past and the present have ever been completely realistic.
I will, indeed, check out some Fred Astaire clips. I’m very familiar with his name but most of his movies were made before I got to the age when I started watching movies.
My wife is a big musical fan. When I met her in college, she was playing a part in the college play. I was never that theatrical even though my mom had been, but my wife’s interest in musicals eventually rubbed off on me. I must admit that, before I met my wife, I often thought it strange that people would break into song for no apparent reason in the musicals.
Then I saw “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” which had been made just a few years before I was born. Much of the dancing in that movie is very impressive. Much of it had to be precise and athletic. After that movie, I saw musicals much differently.
Thank you for the clips of “Call Me Madam,” Marianne. It was made just a year before “Seven Brides” and I don’t think I’d ever seen parts of it. From the clips, I think you nailed it when you stated:
“It’s good fun, but gives a fairytale-like idea of royals being sort of a different species.”
Many Americans view European royals with interest. A great deal is written and reported on when any type of major event happens particularly within Britain’s royals.
The wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle received no end of attention here and they continue to be in the news from time to time.
“I wonder, Chris, if thoughts about the past and the present have ever been completely realistic.”
That is a great question, Marianne. Throughout the difficult times you have mentioned, I think people have always wanted to have a break from the realities of this fallen world. Many take solace in the scriptures and the hope for the future that it brings and I also immediately think of the comedian Bob Hope who, along with many celebrities, entertained American servicemen during war. Here is a quote I got off of the internet:
“One of the few constants of the Vietnam War—one eagerly anticipated by American troops, that is—was the annual Bob Hope Christmas Show. From 1964 to 1972, Hope included South Vietnam on his annual trips to visit troops during the holiday season, a tradition that started for him during World War II.”
Whenever I see clips of old black and white footage of baseball playoff games, I am impressed by the full crowds almost completely attired with white shirts. Movies, sports, and all kinds of entertainment have taken people’s minds off of their trials, at least for awhile, during the years.
I suppose the Hollywood type of entertainment has always had some violence in it. I don’t think they had to have any type of rating system in the early days “rating” violence, sexual situations, or language. I think things in Hollywood are out of control when it comes to stuff like this. My wife and I decided long ago to never watch anything that had an “R” rating. Sometimes they will take all of the bad things out of an “R” rated movie for TV viewers so we have seen a few of those.
Sports are so commercialized these days. A baseball game that used to take 2 hours now takes at least 3 or 4 because of all of the advertisements. I must admit that this is the first year I have had any interest in the World Cup of Soccer. It has been a bit of a cultural experience for me. All of that work for such low scores! I guess that’s OK for the fans who follow the most loved sport in the world. I admit that I rarely watch professional sports these days.
What is realistic? What is reality? I can’t help but think of the following verses from the book of Ephesians (Chapter 6):
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,
20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
21 But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things:
22 Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts.
23 Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
24 Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.
There is so much in this little bit of scripture but it details a few important realities. There is a battle going on that we can’t see (but we see the effects of it in reality all of the time). I think this spiritual battle has been going on from the beginning. And I think there are “tools” to help us in the fight. Things like “truth” are important in the world. How we have forgotten this quality in so many ways. I know that this has always been a problem but in the little space of my lifetime it seems like truth is not as important as it used to be.
The verses also mention that the word of God is the “sword of the Spirit.” I am no professional Theologian but it seems to me that this is just one of so many verses that declare the importance of understanding the scriptures. So, I look to the Christian “giants” of the past, those who seem to have understood them as well as anyone.
Lately, I have been listening to sermons by Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones. I am currently working my way through the series on the book of Romans. The sermons are free and they don’t even have to be downloaded. Thus far, I’m surprised that I hadn’t heard that much about this expositor of God’s Word until so late in life.
Here’s a link to his sermons to anyone who may be interested:
I have always been very impressed with the sermons of Charles Spurgeon. His popularity among most denominations (although they don’t seem as interested in recent years) speak of his ability to “divide the Word” properly. I have an encyclopedia of many of his sermons (in alphabetical order according to subject). I only wish I had the discipline to read at least one of these a week.
A living example of someone who has a much better understanding of the scriptures than I is Alistair Begg, the American with the Scottish brogue. Scotland’s loss was American’s gain but I’m sure he is broadcast all over Britain.
His easy-to-listen-to sermons can be found here:
Then, of course, there is the availability of opening the scriptures ourselves. I believe the Holy Spirit still speaks to us through the words that God inspired men to write throughout the ages.
I hope I haven’t gotten off on too much of a rabbit trail, Marianne. The links that I have provided here are, of course, put there with the intention of interesting anyone who comes to this blog.
It is nice to see the talents of people like Donald O’Connor and Vera-Ellen captured on the golden screen living on in videos like this.
One of the clips you shared also featured Ethel Merman, another name I recognize. Thank you again, Marianne, for sharing them with my readers and for your thoughtful comments.
As I told you by mail, Chris, I have tried to post this comment but it just disappeared, for some reason. Now I have divided it into two, to see if that helps.
I have thought about this for a bit. Perhaps it is something like this:
There is some “topic”. You can convey it through words – a novel, a story, a play. That appeals to some part of the receiver’s brain.
Or you can convey the “topic” through music. That appeals to another part of the recipient’s brain, perhaps more directly to the emotions.
If you are able to combine different “parts” of reaction, the impact will often be all the stronger.
Grand opera is basically singing. But in order to catch the audience and
keep them interested for more than 5 minutes, there should be a good orchestra accompanying the song AND some kind of story too, in the form of a play. (Mozart, I have read, was urged to write more operas. He replied that what was missing was not music for it – and indeed that man seems to have been just pouring it out – but that he was in trouble finding a good story and having someone cough up a good libretto (dialogue) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libretto).
Some operas are all full scale singing, others are arias with recitatives in between (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recitative).
If the latter, the arias tend to stop the action and instead express the singer’s feelings or summarise something, while the action gets going again in the recitatives. Operettas and musicals are the same on this point, I think.
As regards breaking into song for no apparent reason, I suppose the music is really the ultimate reason more than the play!
(Here is the second part of Marianne’s comment which she sent via email:)
And then, in some Christian congregations there is no singing in the service (cf Bach in Köthen), but in most there is. Why do we, in a church service, celebrate God by breaking into song, for no apparent reason? Isn’t the reason that the music engages our emotions and heightens our understanding or appreciation of the religious theme, do you think?
Why do we experience the great religious masses or cantatas, Händel’s “Messiah”, as religiously invigorating?
I remember something Richard Wurmbrandt said when he was here giving talks (I wrote a little about it in January 2016: https://delightintruth.com/2016/01/11/game-changer-in-the-fight-against-barnevernet/#comment-67219).
He told us that some Christian people would, during the repressive communist regime, meet out in the woods and hold a service. And, he said, then we sang. Why? The singing is much better at the opera. But we sang in God’s honour!
“I have thought about this for a bit.”
I have too, Marianne, and I know you are on to something when you state:
“If you are able to combine different “parts” of reaction, the impact will often be all the stronger.”
The emotion you mention is very real. Handel’s Messiah is a great example. I’ve had the opportunity to sing in the bass section several times for this amazing work. It never fails to invigorate. There are many times in my experience when the singing in a church service, worship in song, has been just as powerful as anything stated by the preacher.
You have made an excellent point:
“Why do we, in a church service, celebrate God by breaking into song, for no apparent reason? Isn’t the reason that the music engages our emotions and heightens our understanding or appreciation of the religious theme, do you think?”
During the repressive time that Richard Wurmbrandt referred to, how did those brave souls in the woods know that they couldn’t be heard by very dangerous people? They sang to praise and honour God, as you have stated, in spite of the risk.
I’m reminded of Paul and Silas singing in prison:
25 “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.” (Acts 16)
I wonder what surprised those who listened to Paul an Silas more that night? Was it that men were singing hymns to God in a very unfavorable situation, or was it the earthquake?
I enjoy listening to opera singers who are very talented, even though i don’t always know the language they are singing. I appreciate their God given and honed talents. At the same time, there is nothing quite like those who are singing to God with all of their hearts whether they have perfect pitch or not.
Thank you, Marianne.
The thread is getting thin again, Marianne, so I am starting another.
“No, I am not going to go into mourning. But it was so idiotic not to use my head, because the agreement reached then with the Danish king Frederik 7 actually implied the creation of the first Danish parliament. And THAT should have made me sit up, because Norway had its constitution and the establishment of its parliament from 1814 (for that reason a central date in Norway’s history), as one of the results of the Napoleonic wars, so 1) the establishment of a parliament in Norway could not have been BEFORE 1814, and 2) nor could it have happened later.”
Well, you made a mistake, Marianne. I would not classify it as you have (idiotic).
When you mention the word “idiotic” and the date 1814, there is one thing that comes to mind: The War of 1812.
It seems very odd and perhaps even idiotic to name a war after the year it started particularly since it sounds like it ended the same year.
“But in the late summer of 1814 (the same year as the signing of the constitution in Norway), the most famous events of the war (of 1812), apart from the legendary Battle of New Orleans (Jan. 8, 1815), occurred in a condensed period of just a few short weeks.”