We celebrate the Fourth of July and not April 15, because — in America — we commemorate our independence from the government, not our dependence on it. Let’s not take that for granted this week — or any week.
Our founders clearly spelled out the American Promise in the Declaration of Independence with these compelling words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Despite attempts by “woke” radicals to discredit the founders, our nation was created on the belief that all of us are created equal and that God grants us fundamental rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is important to note that government does not grant us these rights. Rather, it is the responsibility of the government to protect these rights. We must continue to become a more perfect nation as we move closer to fulfilling the promise of the Declaration for all Americans.
Sadly, many on the left want to divide us. If you don’t agree with them, they will call you racist, sexist, transphobic, Neanderthal or worse. So many of them are filled with anger and hatred for those who do not share their beliefs.
As conservatives, we must counter their disdain for America and our founding principles with optimism and unity. We love America and all she stands for. We want everyone — young or old, rich or poor, Black or white, those born here and those who legally came here — to have the same freedoms and opportunities passed on to us from prior generations.
President Ronald Reagan wisely warned in his farewell address about the need to teach American history and restore shared civic rituals. I can remember learning to say the Pledge of Allegiance each morning in Mrs. Fox’s kindergarten class. We were proud to stand and put our hands over our hearts.
In contrast, one of the students at our Reagan Ranch High School Conference last week told me that her private school does not recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Abby said that she petitioned them to restore it, but was told that the pledge was not consistent with their beliefs.
What exactly is threatening about these words?
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
A republic is a form of government where the supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, so the pledge does not prevent people from seeking to improve our country. Personally, I think the government, particularly the federal government, is too big and too intrusive. I also think that the things it is supposed to do are not done as well as they should be done. Still, we can support the republic while still seeking to improve it.
Since our rights come from our creator, it only makes sense that we be “one Nation under God.” The Constitution makes it clear that there cannot be an established state religion, but that does not dispute the existence of God.
The American Civil War is evidence that we are “indivisible.” Most other nations would have fallen after such a war between fellow citizens. Yet, we survived and, ultimately, flourished.
The guarantee of “liberty and justice for all” is part of the American promise that was first declared on July 4, 1776. In three years, we will celebrate the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States of America. No other country founded on freedom has survived that long.
Reagan rightfully warned, however, that freedom is never more than one generation from extinction. It does not get passed on to you via the bloodstream. We each have to fight for it, defend it and then pass it on to the next generation to do the same.
Saying the Pledge of Allegiance is symbolic of our larger commitment to freedom and opportunity for everyone. Students like Abby, who are not allowed to recite the words of the pledge, are also often blocked from starting their own clubs and organizations if they have a conservative point of view. We must support them.
We defend the right to say the Pledge of Allegiance just as we fight to protect free speech rights on campus and in school. We shouldn’t have to go to court to protect a fundamental constitutional right. In fact, free speech should be revered at colleges. Sadly, these days, it is where it is most under attack.
This Fourth of July, let’s rededicate ourselves to protecting liberty and justice for all. Now that’s a great way to celebrate our independence.
• Scott Walker is the president of Young America’s Foundation and served as the 45th governor of Wisconsin from 2011 to 2019.