My friend and I recently returned from a marvelous holiday… a cruise in the Baltic Region. The countries we visited are, for the most part, experiencing freedom and independence: Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, etc. However, the 20th Century history of the area (the Nazi and then the Communist invasions and take-overs — coupled with recent  articles of Russian “mergers…” not to mention the Mainland Chinese fighting against democracy in Hong Kong) gives one pause.
It motivated me to think deeply about what the concept — FREEDOM — means. Each July 4th we celebrate our country’s independence… our freedom to govern ourselves: a freedom that not every country has. With that freedom comes the responsibility to guard and maintain it from generation to generation.
Like the poem below states, our freedom is something we must guard, and protect, and pass on intact. We must stay watchful, and perhaps even a little bit paranoid. It could slip away if, or as, we sleep.
Freedom is not guaranteed to us
Without working for it day after day.
Keeping freedom a fact in our daily lives
Takes responsibility… (not meant as a cliche)
As Ronald Reagan so wisely declared,
“Freedom is never more than one generation away
From extinction.” That means we didn’t inherit
Any genes or blood type that would pave the way.
No, freedom must be fought for, and then protected,
And finally handed on to the next generation…
With the premise that they must carry the burden
Of protecting it for themselves to its next commemoration.
“Education unlocks the door to freedom.”
So said George Washington Carver, a learned man.
He understood the degree of responsibility
That comes with freedom. (Do the very best you can.)
Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female Supreme Court Judge
Stated these words which added to her legacy:
“The freedom to criticize judges and other public officials
Is necessary to a vibrant democracy.”
Abe Lincoln weighed in on the subject of freedom:
“America will never be destroyed from [without].”
No, it will come from within, if we allow special interests
To decide what is best, and if we sell ourselves out.
Pope John Paul warned of the pervading nationalism
That is being aggressively imposed in many forms. (Be leery!)
If we are tempted to adopt it as a truer freedom,
We may just be trading for a new form of slavery.
JFK said, “Conformity is the jailer of freedom
And the enemy of growth” (a thought most sage).
The secret to happiness is always freedom…
And the secret to freedom is courage.
George Washington said, “If the freedom of speech
Is taken away [from our rights],
Then dumb and silent we might be led
Like sheep to the slaughter.” (Resist with all your might!)
To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains
But to live in a way that respects others’ independence.
None of us are free until all are out of bondage.
Respond to all dangers with loving intelligence.
The ultimate human freedom comes from these endowments:
Self-awareness; conscience; independent will; and imagination.
They give us the power to choose, to respond,
And to change… and become our own creation.