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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Obama: Freedom doesn’t just happen, must be defended daily

President Barack Obama hugs and sings “Happy Birthday” to his daughter Malia Obama, as they are joined by Kendrick Lamar, left, and Janelle Monae, right, onstage during an Independence Day celebration in the East Room of the White House in Washington on Monday, July 4, 2016, for members of the military and their families. (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)
Associated Press

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama, marking his final Fourth of July in the White House, said freedom isn’t something that “just happens” but must be defended every single day.

Obama said it’s important that people remember what “a miracle” the U.S. is and how “incredibly lucky we are that people generations ago were willing to take up arms and fight for our freedom.”

“Independence is not something that just happens,” he said during brief remarks to several hundred people in the White House East Room after rain forced cancellation of an annual barbecue on the South Lawn for some 5,000 military service members, veterans and their families.

“It’s something that we have to fight for every single day,” Obama said. “It’s something that we have to nurture and we have to spread the word and we have to work on.”

He said freedom involves respecting each other and recognizing the hardships faced by fellow citizens, such as hunger and unemployment.

“Freedom without the ability to contribute to society and put a roof over your head and look after your family, that’s not yet what we aim for,” Obama said, who spoke after about an hour’s worth of hip-shaking musical performances by rapper Kendrick Lamar and singer-songwriter Janelle Monae. Monae closed her set by performing “Let’s Go Crazy” in tribute to Prince, who died this year.

It was the second straight year that weather scuttled the barbecue.

The president also celebrated another birthday: His oldest daughter, Malia, turned 18.

Obama led the audience in singing “Happy Birthday” to her, saying “it’s a job of a father to embarrass his daughter.”