“Give me Liberty or give me Death”
These words, or some version of these words, have long been attributed to Patrick Henry from a speech made before the Virginia Convention in 1775 at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia.
Henry’s stirring speech was heard by such American giants as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and it was his words that sealed Virginia’s decision to provide troops for the Revolutionary War.
Today, as the United States of America celebrates its Independence Day I, like millions of other of my fellow Americans, will be spending time commemorating the day with family and friends.
We do so against a back drop of “chatter” from terrorists and terrorist groups seeking to do harm to our country.
We celebrate as thousands of our fellow citizens – American soldiers – defend our nation’s interests in places near and far in our name in the hopes we can continue to enjoy our freedom and liberty.
In and amongst the food, the picnics, the laughter and the fireworks it is easy to forget what this day means and should mean to all of us.
The choice between liberty and death seems melodramatic today. But, for our fellow countrymen and women who have fought abroad – and who defend here at home and throughout the world – that is the commitment they have made to our nation.
Would the rest of us choose the same?
I have often wondered if, faced with the stark choice between my liberty or my life, would I give up the former to keep the latter?
When it comes to the life of my children I would not hesitate to give up mine for the preservation of their lives.
But, for generations of Americans, including those that began the liberty that we all enjoy so much today, it hasn’t simply been a rhetorical question.
Liberty has been as much of their existence as the blood that courses through their veins and the air in their lungs.
Without liberty there would be no life.
Robert Green Ingersoll wrote, “What light is to the eyes – what air is to the lungs – what love is to the heart, liberty is to the soul of man.”
Independence Day in the United States of America is more than just the date of the 4th of July. Truth be told, the date of our Independence has always been open to debate. With some questioning if the actual date was sooner or later and some, even challenging the notion of whether or not America truly is the land of the free.
To those who question America’s commitment to freedom and liberty I can only remind them that their right to do so would be met with imprisonment, punishment and even death in many places around the world.
For those who question whether or not the 4th of July truly is the correct date we gained our Independence I simply smile and turn to allow them to continue the debate.
As for me, I choose to relish every single day of my life in the United States of America as a free human being. My freedom to enjoy my life on my terms within a nation built upon the Rule of Law, in a civil society, continues to be as strong today as it was when my mother brought me into this world.
God willing, my life will continue long into my old, old age and so, too, will the freedom and liberty I enjoy as an American.
It is my hope, as it is for millions of my fellow Americans, that I will never be confronted with the choice between my liberty or my life. I understand that hope is not a strategy for avoiding that choice.
A strong America, with active participation by its citizens in its government, community, school and other forms of civic engagement, is vital to the protection of our democracy and thus, our liberty.
A strong America, supporting its military and the men and women who serve in it, throughout the year – every single day of the year – is fundamental to protecting and preserving that liberty.
America is not perfect. Nor is our liberty unrestrained by laws and rules and regulations. Or, is liberty equally defined by every American citizens.
Great internal conflict has been at the core of America’s journey of Democracy and its legacy of the pursuit of the perfect liberty.
Thomas Jefferson said, “The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave.”
Give me liberty or give me death.
I choose liberty.
Every single time.
I would give my life on it.