On this day celebrating the birth of our nation, it is useful to reflect on a few excerpts from presidential Fourth of July messages. They underscore the commitment to freedom and respect for diverse outlooks that contributes to the nation's greatness.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1941:
"We know that we cannot save freedom in our own midst, in our own land, if all around us our neighbor nations have lost their freedom.
"That is why we are engaged in a serious, in a mighty, in a unified action in the cause of the defense of the hemisphere and the freedom of the seas. We need not the loyalty and unity alone, we need speed and efficiency and toil and an end to backbiting ...
"I tell the American people solemnly that the United States will never survive as a happy and fertile oasis of liberty surrounded by a cruel desert of dictatorship.
"And so it is that when we repeat the great pledge to our country and to our flag, it must be our deep conviction that we pledge as well our work, our will and, if it be necessary, our very lives."
George W. Bush, 2003:
"America's work in the world does not end with the removal of grave threats. The Declaration of Independence holds a promise for all mankind. Because Americans believe that freedom is an inalienable right, we value the freedom of every nation. Because we are committed to the God-given worth of every life, we work for human dignity. We protect our friends. And we raised up former enemies to be our friends."
Bill Clinton, 1996:
"America is a work in progress, and we have strived through decades of challenge and change to become what our Founders envisioned on our first Independence Day. As we continue that endeavor, let us work together to create an America that remains the world's strongest force for peace, justice, and freedom.
"Let us work for an America that is not driven apart by differences but instead is united around shared values and respect for our diversity.
"Let us work for an America in which every one of us, without regard to race or religious belief or gender or station in life, can achieve our dreams. ..."
Ronald Reagan, 1986:
"Believe me, if there's one impression I carry with me after the privilege of holding for five-and-a-half years the office held by Adams and Jefferson and Lincoln, it is this: that the things that unite us - America's past of which we're so proud, our hopes and aspirations for the future of the world and this much-loved country - these things far outweigh what little divides us.
And so tonight we reaffirm that Jew and gentile, we are one nation under God; that black and white, we are one nation indivisible; that Republican and Democrat, we are all Americans.
Tonight, with heart and hand, through whatever trial and travail, we pledge ourselves to each other and to the cause of human freedom, the cause that has given light to this land and hope to the world."