Dear Readers: Happy July Fourth! While you’re grilling hot dogs and spending the day with family and friends, please remember the reason we celebrate this day. Here’s an excerpt from one of our favorite pieces, originally written in 1955 as a public relations advertisement for the Norfolk and Western Railway company magazine and updated in 1976:
‘I Am the Nation’ by Otto Whittaker
I was born on July 4, 1776, and the Declaration of Independence is my birth certificate. The bloodlines of the world run in my veins, because I offered freedom to the oppressed. I am many things and many people. I am the nation.
I am 250 million living souls – and the ghost of millions who have lived and died for me. I am Nathan Hale and Paul Revere. I stood at Lexington and fired the shot heard around the world. I am Washington, Jefferson and Patrick Henry. I am John Paul Jones, the Green Mountain Boys and Davy Crockett. I am Lee and Grant and Abe Lincoln.
I remember the Alamo, the Maine and Pearl Harbor. When freedom called, I answered and stayed until it was over, over there. I left my heroic dead in Flanders Field, on the rock of Corregidor, on the bleak slopes of Korea and in the steaming jungle of Vietnam.
You can look at me and see Ben Franklin walking down the streets of Philadelphia with his breadloaf under his arm. You can see Betsy Ross with her needle. You can see the lights of Christmas and hear the strains of “Auld Lang Syne” as the calendar turns.
I am Babe Ruth and the World Series. I am 110,000 schools and colleges and 330,000 churches where my people worship God as they think best. I am a ballot dropped into a box, the roar of a crowd in a stadium and the voice of a choir in a cathedral. I am an editorial in a newspaper and a letter to a Congressman.
I am Eli Whitney and Stephen Foster. I am Tom Edison, Albert Einstein and Billy Graham. I am Horace Greeley, Will Rogers and the Wright Brothers. I am George Washington Carver, Jonas Salk and Martin Luther King Jr.
I am Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Walt Whitman and Thomas Paine.
Yes, I am the nation and these are the things that I am. I was conceived in freedom and, God willing, in freedom I will spend the rest of my days.
May I possess always the integrity, the courage and the strength to keep myself unshackled, to remain a citadel of freedom and a beacon of hope to the world.