Although Patrick Henry is best known for the line, “Give me Liberty or Give me Death,” I have another favorite line from his impassioned speech made to the Virginia House of Burgesses in March, 1775. In that same speech, in which he was trying to convince his fellow colonists to take up arms in rebellion against what he and many others perceived as an unjust and tyrannical rule by authorities in Great Britain, he stated:
“The battle . . . is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.”
I love this line. To me, it expresses everything about what it means to be a patriotic American today and a participant in this great experiment we call the United States of America.
Out of desperation and after exhaustive attempts at compromise, Patrick Henry, many others in the colonies, felt the need to break away from Great Britain and create a new country, one based on the principles of liberty and the natural, inalienable rights of individuals. We know the story of the Revolutionary War ends happily with the scrappy colonists winning their independence from Great Britain, and ultimately, with the birth of the United States of America.
But the battle for the United States did not end with the treaty of Paris in 1783; nor with the ratification of the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or any of the amendments that have been added over our 245-year history. The battle for the ideals which respect the dignity and freedom of every individual, and which are enshrined in our Constitution, is ongoing. We can’t just sit back and let things happen in our families, our neighborhoods, our communities, or in our country. We must be vigilant – by staying critically informed and on guard against anything that threatens the high ideals enshrined in our Constitution. We must be active in upholding those ideals — getting involved in our communities to make them better, upholding the dignity of each individual that is a part of our community; And we must be brave, speaking out against anyone or anything that goes against those ideals, even if it is uncomfortable or inconvenient.
Because we are a nation of individuals, with our own self-interests, we will always struggle to keep to the most virtuous interpretation of the ideals spelled out in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. We are bound to make mistakes along the way, but it is essential that we fight the good fight and that we keep working together in our quest to be a more perfect union. Each one of us can do our own little part in this even by just being civil to one another in our day-to-day interactions. 🙂 Eric’s Battle Buddy, Tony Moody really lived this! Recently, at his funeral, we were surrounded by hundreds of people from Tony’s family, church, community, and workplaces: both military and civilian. Everyone loved Tony and it was evident that he made such a huge impact on the lives of everyone he met. The very first thing anyone ever saw when encountering Tony was his gigantic, genuine smile. That’s how we all should be toward one another because we really are all in this together.
Independence Day is a great time to get together with family and friends and to celebrate the birth of this great nation. Eric and I enjoy watching patriotic movies or documentaries about the War for Independence, and the early days of our nation; and at any time of year, I love to reread the words of the Declaration of Independence or the preamble to the US Constitution.
If it has been a while since you’ve looked at these documents, I invite you to take a look at them sometime over the weekend. Here is a great site to get started: https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs. Our country is beautifully unique in all the world – and in all of history. It is worth it for every one of us to uphold the ideals that shaped it.