Increased bravery will lead to increased freedom.
Independence Day fell on Sunday this year. So, when we sang The Star Spangled Banner in church, it didn't end with, "Play ball!"
But I was still moved by singing the national anthem with a large group of fellow Americans. I've always enjoyed looking around in a crowd at a baseball game or other sporting event during the national anthem. I appreciate the chance to reflect on what I share with all the other people around me.
Even when I hear the national anthem by myself, I feel grateful to live in a country governed by the rule of law. A land where elected officials swear they will uphold the Constitution and its democratic principles, rather than swearing allegiance to a particular person.
I know that we are still fighting for the day when the inherent worth and dignity of every person declared in the Declaration of Independence is more fully reflected in systems and individual behaviors. I know that the "more perfect Union" and "domestic tranquility" for which the United States Constitution was written aren't experienced by everyone, every day.
But I am encouraged by the words of United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, in his book, Active Liberty: "The Constitution is not a document designed to solve the problems of a community at any level--local, state, or national. Rather it is a document that trusts people to solve those problems themselves." And I am heartened by how many people and organizations are working to give everyone "the capacity to exercise their democratic responsibilities" Justice Breyer said the people need "to participate and to govern effectively."
If you're finding that the country, your community, or your workplace isn't as free as you'd like it to be, don't give up. Be brave. Take one step that is within your control. Write one email to a legislator. Pick up one piece of trash on the sidewalk. Take one struggling colleague to lunch.
At a time when we have access to what feels like the weight of the world in the palm of our hands, it's easy to feel like it's up to each of us to "establish Justice." But, in reality, we secure "the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity" by promoting "the general Welfare" of each other, one person, one interaction at a time.
So, take a few minutes today to watch and listen as Branford Marsalis and Bruce Hornsby play the national anthem. Read these words from President Abraham Lincoln. Then, write down one brave thing you will do--today--to make America more free.
It is in order that each of you may have through this free government which we have enjoyed, an open field and a fair chance for your industry, enterprise and intelligence; that you may all have equal privileges in the race of life, with all its desirable human aspirations. It is for this the struggle should be maintained, that we may not lose our birthright. . . The nation is worth fighting for, to secure such an inestimable jewel.
--Abraham Lincoln, to an Ohio regiment returning from the front in 1864, Quoted in Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals