We celebrate the birth of the American Project today; we will watch fireworks, we will cook hot dogs, we will toast s’mores. Will we see this day as a commemoration of the day we declared our freedom or as a day to evaluate our progress in extending the highest ideals of the American Project to all Americans?
I encourage you to watch this video of Frederick Douglass’ descendants reciting a speech given by him on July 5th 1852.
I encourage you to read the speech.
The highest ideal of the American Project can be drawn from these 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.”
Now, let us measure ourselves to this standard. What represents the greatest risk to these ideals: having to wear a mask to prevent the spread of an unprecedented pandemic to protect those most vulnerable in our community or being killed because you are black?
In 1852, we were far from our ideals. Today, we may be closer, but we still have work to do and I commit myself to that work; and I will wear a mask, because without life, what happiness will be pursued, what liberty is there to cherish?
Today is a holiday where we should pause as a nation to celebrate our ideals and to recommit ourselves to the fight for EVERY American to share in the highest vision of those ideals. In 1776, a journey began for our nation, let us continue our work on that journey so that we may reap the benefits of a project that is just, fair, free, inclusive, and truly for all men and women who have been created equal by their Creator.