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From 1776 to 2024: Reflecting on America’s Ongoing Fight for Freedom


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From 1776 to 2024: Reflecting on America’s Ongoing Fight for Freedom

Column by Paul Graves | FāVS News

The park ranger set the scene in the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall). She told of the Continental Congress debating whether to declare independence from Britain in 1776.

I began to imagine the appointed “committee of 5” (Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert R. Livingston and Roger Sherman) disagree and compromise as they perfected Jefferson’s document. We know it as the Declaration of Independence.

Its preamble famously begins: “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.”

The word “freedom” isn’t found there. But the power and value of “freedom” nourish every word.

248 Years of Freedom’s Evolution

Our family spent the day drinking in some of the historical background of Philadelphia’s central role in America’s fight for freedom. Our eyes, hearts and minds were opened to the fight that still continues on so many levels!        

The year 1776 was only 248 years away from today. It’s not really a long time as we reflect on how much our country has grown and how much potential maturity we have before us.        

In those 248 years, freedom has been a taken-for-granted privilege for many, an unattainable reality for many and a hard-fought achievement for many. For all of us, freedom has been more fragile than any of us care to think about!

Truth and Freedom: Fragile Allies

But in this 2024 election year, we must consider the fragility of freedom. As we reflect on freedom’s valuable vulnerabilities, we’d also be wise to look at the fragility of “truth” in our culture today.

Jesus’ famous words from John 8:32 assert that “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” I don’t know what our founding fathers thought about that assertion.

But I know when truth is up-for-sale (like disinformation masquerading as “truth”). So are the concept and the reality of freedom. For years, I’ve used the term “truth-pieces” to describe how we dabble much more in bits of truth rather than capture the full truth of anything.        

We must embody humility and courage to admit we don’t know – let alone possess – the complete truth of anything. Until we do that, I don’t think we’ll be humble or courageous enough to hold our freedoms in our hands like the fragile birds they are.   

Freedom Summer 1964: A Legacy of Courage     

Which brings me to the 1964 Freedom Summer. Sixty years ago, an incredibly audacious, root-deep radical effort was organized to increase voter registration among Black Americans in Mississippi. This campaign almost literally began with the murders of three Black CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in June 1964.

The horrors and the hopes of Freedom Summer 1964 are written about by Eddie Wong, a longtime Asian-American political activist. His enlightening January 2024 article, “How Mississippi Freedom Summer 1964 Can Inspire Us in 2024,” is found in Convergence magazine.

Freedom Summer’s complicated and dangerous efforts included 1,000 white college students volunteering with Black Mississippians to embody the truth-piece that “all men/women are created equal.” That could happen when those Black persons could vote freely. Tragically racist-based voter suppression obviously still happens in America.        

Yet remarkably, Freedom Summer 1964 still shows some very positive effects in 2024. Its legacies of Freedom Schools and Freedom Vote still ring clearly in the ears and hearts of freedom seekers. Especially this summer.        

Freedom and truth continue to be fragile. Political contests are regularly characterized as good vs. evil, or democracy vs. autocracy. Whatever the code language, voting is critical to America’s freedom. Please register to vote. Then vote!

The views expressed in this opinion column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FāVS News. FāVS News values diverse perspectives and thoughtful analysis on matters of faith and spirituality.

Paul Graves
Paul Graves
Paul Graves is a retired and re-focused United Methodist pastor and a long-time resident of Sandpoint, Idaho, where he formerly served on city council and mayor. His second career is in geriatric social work, and since 2005 he's been the Lead Geezer-in-Training of Elder Advocates, a consulting and teaching ministry on aging issues. Since 1992, Graves has been a volunteer chaplain for Bonner Community Hospice. His columns regularly appear in The Spokesman-Review's Faith and Values section, and he also writes the Dear Geezer column for the Bonner County Daily Bee and is the host of the bi-weekly Geezer Forum on aging issues in Sandpoint.

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Walter A Hesford
Walter A Hesford
6 days ago

Thanks for this 4th of July reminder that we must always struggle to preserve and expand what our country should stand for. I have to admit that on this 4th I was so discouraged by the recent Supreme Court ruling giving the president the power of a monarch and also by the state of our presidential election that I refused to celebrate. But, as you remind us, we can’t afford to drop out.

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