Remembering and celebrating freedom
By By Trent Lott / u.s. senator
July 4, 2003
July 4th is a time to celebrate our nation's freedom. Freedom is the primary trait that has defined America for more than 200 years.
Even though we take our freedom for granted sometimes, when our Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th 1776, freedom for common people was a novel concept among nations. For America freedom is the driving force behind our success. We should keep this in mind, not just on July 4th but year-round.
I've heard various theories on why some nations succeed while others fail. Folks have speculated on all types of causes for that everything from family structure, work ethic, and even climate.
However, I think it is personal freedom the freedom to worship as you see fit, the freedom to choose your own career, the freedom to choose your city or town, the freedom to raise a family, and the freedom to innovate. Without freedom, what incentive is there for people to better themselves? Without a way for people to better themselves, how can a nation achieve?
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once illustrated this concept in a speech. He asked the audience: What set America apart from the old Soviet Union during the Cold War? Why did one nation fail and the other succeed?
Both nations had about the same population. Both nations had vast amounts of good land and natural resources. In fact the Soviet Union had more in terms of raw materials.
The Soviets also had very capable, educated people. Her scientists, engineers, mathematicians, artists, and on down the line, were just as good or better than those anywhere else. There was certainly no shortage of physical and mental matter in the Soviet Union or the ability to shape that matter into something valuable.
Aware of their potential, in the tradition of centralized, communist planning, the Soviets built entire cities around certain industries and themes places dedicated to one particular state goal with the nation's best brains in those fields put in one place, working together.
Yet, as Netanyahu pointed out, those people still were not free. They could not profit freely from their many innovations and talents. They were not free to own a home or land. They had no basic freedoms guaranteed by a written constitution.
Under these circumstances, with the goals of the state supplanting those of the individuals, the only entity with freedom is the state, not the people. The personal freedom articulated so eloquently by our Founding Fathers two centuries ago is the cornerstone of our nation's success. It's why folks like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Bill Gates succeeded independently profiting from their success and spreading it to others, without some centralized state-sponsored program.
Freedom has given me the son of a pipefitter and school teacher the opportunity to live the American Dream, to start from very humble beginnings and to become your senator, and a representative of 2.8 million other Mississippians.
I'm sure you can point to things in your own life that are the result of freedom. Personal freedom is why we can read this column in a newspaper that is free to print what its publishers see fit. Personal freedom is why we don't have to worry about someone oppressing us for our religious or political views. Freedom is why someone can write a letter to this newspaper disagreeing with everything I say here, without fear of reprisal from the government or our fellow citizens.
Without freedom, all the brain power and physical resources in the world cannot make a successful, enduring nation. As we saw in the Soviet Union, in Eastern Europe, in Saddam's Iraq and in the Taliban's Afghanistan, totalitarian states may last for a season, but without freedom they cannot long endure.
Even the most cynical critic of America has to acknowledge freedom's success here, and in every place in which freedom has taken hold since the advent of America's example in Western Europe, in Japan, South Korea and in nations throughout the world which have emulated our traditions of personal freedom and representative government.
Freedom truly is something worth celebrating on July 4th and worth remembering every day.