We asked some contributors and friends of NR how they will be celebrating July 4. Here are their replies:
Ryan T. Anderson
I’m celebrating my freedom to tell the truth, and working to protect that freedom for future generations.
— Ryan T. Anderson is the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow in American Principles and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation and author of the forthcoming book Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom.
Colleen Carroll Campbell
I’m grateful for my faith, my family and my religious freedom. I’m also mindful that freedom is under fire. Given the impending fallout from Obergefell v. Hodges and the escalating harassment of those who defend man-woman marriage, oppose taxpayer-funded abortion or insist that our God-given sexual identity still matters, I’m no longer sure that robust religious liberty in the U.S. will last my lifetime, much less my children’s.
What I do know is this: I’m called to stand up and speak out while I can. I’m called to raise countercultural children who will defend their faith and freedoms long after I’m gone. And I’m called to stake my confidence for the future on the interior liberty that is a gift from God to every human person – a gift no government mandate or Supreme Court ruling can rescind.
— Colleen Carroll Campbell is an award-winning author, journalist, and former presidential speechwriter whose latest book is My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir (Random House, 2012). She serves as a lay consultant on religious liberty to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and lives near Washington, D.C., with her husband and four children.
As for me and my family and friends, we celebrate those who sacrificed and fought the good fight for us to be free. Freedom isn’t free. If America remains tethered to God, freedom will prevail for all, born and unborn. Forward, forward, always forward!
— Pat Castle is president and co-founder of Intro LIFE Runners.
Freedom is usually thought to mean the absence of restraint, particularly from the state. But it is more than that. A free government not only respects my natural rights — to speech, conscience, due process, etc. It also does not rule arbitrarily. Its legitimacy is derived from the people, and it exercises sovereignty on behalf of the people.
These principles were very much at stake in 1776. The English had preserved their version of these ideals in the Glorious Revolution, but Parliament’s capricious rule over America posed a new threat. The Revolution was the ultimate vindication of free government. It is worth celebrating the Founders, not only for their courage and tenacity in fighting the British, but also their moderation and ingenuity. This was the critical moment in modern history, so thank God we had men like Franklin and Washington, rather than Robespierre and Napoleon, to lead us.
— Jay Cost is a staff writer for The Weekly Standard. His new book is A Republic No More: Big Government and the Rise of American Political Corruption.
This Independence Day I am celebrating the resolute response of so many Americans to the most recent unconstitutional decisions of the “Supreme” Court, declaring that this is not the end but the beginning of a battle to rescue the world’s best health care system and preserve biblical marriage as the linchpin of our society.
— Lee Edwards is Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought at the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles & Politics Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity at The Heritage Foundation.
I celebrate what’s left of that freedom after the parallel attacks on it of the Obama administration and the Supreme Court. What I resolve is to work for restoration of what we have lately lost of this. Our fathers bought it for us, and it is not our place to throw it away.
— Matthew J. Franck is director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute.
This weekend, we’ll spend time as a family, enjoying each other’s company and giving thanks to a nation that encourages innovation and gives women amazing opportunities and true independence.
— Julie Gunlock is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.
The fireworks this weekend will sound the starting pistol of the 2016 election season. The hope and possibility of change that lifts the hearts of conservatives is proof of the wisdom of the founders’ design. No matter how olympian a president and a party may be, the opposition is lurking in the gallery, holding him accountable when he fails to halt the rise of the oceans.
— Kevin A. Hassett is the State Farm James Q. Wilson Chair in American Politics and Culture at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
My family and I will be celebrating our precious freedom, and those who defend it. My kids will learn the story of our great country, because too many Americans don’t fully grasp the bold step—and long odds—that our Founders undertook in establishing the American experiment. They were exceptional men, with an audacious—yet clear eyed—vision of human freedom. The odds were stacked against them, militarily and historically; yet, their constitutional Republic has stood for nearly 239 years. America is the land of the free because of the brave, and we must remember that.
— Pete Hegseth is the CEO of Concerned Veterans for America and a Fox News contributor.
Heather Richardson Higgins
This July 4th I shall be at Newark Airport, picking up my 15 year old as he returns from a language immersion program. The airport will be full of people taking advantage of not only the freedom to travel where they want, but to come to this country, attracted by the freedoms to fulfill their own potential, to practice their faith, to be treated with dignity, that they lack elsewhere.
— Heather Richardson Higgins is president and CEO of Independent Women’s Voice.
I am celebrating my U.S. “Gladiator” moment, namely: “There once was a dream that was the United States.” We may have taken some steps backward, but the dream of being the brightest beacon of freedom that mankind has ever known is still within our reach.
— Douglas Holtz-Eakin is president of the American Action Forum.
I’m attending a wedding, which is an important reminder that independence isn’t about being solitary, but is a joining together with another — whether it’s a spouse or a family or a community — for the sake of something bigger than ourselves. Our country gained its independence not because of the actions of an independent individual, but through the collective actions and decisions of many who had a definite, higher purpose. To celebrate is to pray, so my prayer for this day is for all of us to discover our chief aim in life and move boldly and together in its direction.
— Gary Jansen is a senior editor at the Crown Publishing Group of Penguin Random House.
In 1988 I traveled to East Germany with a group of college students. Our living conditions were uncomfortable, the food was horrible (shriveled plums, hard, dry meats, boiled eggs), and the pollution was appalling. But the worst thing (even for a self-absorbed young adult) was the oppression of the East German students. In my naïveté, I expressed my enthusiasm for their studies. They were not enthusiastic. Almost none of the students were studying what they wanted to study. An aptitude test had been administered, and they were assigned disciplines. With students of my own now, I am deeply grateful for a government that allows children innumerable second chances (IEPs, GEDs, community colleges), and that supports creativity, initiative, and drive. We are (excepting abortion) a merciful country that allows its citizens second chances. My family needs them. I am celebrating them.
— Jennifer Kaczor is co-author of The Seven Big Myths about Marriage.
I’ll address what freedom is and is not, starting with what it isn’t.
It isn’t Justice Anthony Kennedy’s definition, which he rendered in the 1992 Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood v. Casey: “At the heart of liberty,” proclaimed Kennedy, “is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
That isn’t the Founders’ understanding of freedom, nor is it a conservative understanding. The Founders’ understanding was grounded in what Jefferson and the Continental Congress aptly described as “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” They knew that a country whose conception of liberty was rudderless, totally relativistic, totally individualistic, with no roots in certain time-tested traditions and absolutes or Judeo-Christian ethics, was doomed.
The Founders understood that freedom requires faith, virtue, self-restraint. George Washington urged citizens to govern themselves before they could govern their nation. Similarly, Russell Kirk spoke of “ordered liberty.” Kirk talked of the need for “inner order” before citizens could successfully govern through “outer order.”
This is, obviously, completely contrary to the modern conception of “freedom” by Anthony Kennedy and our court’s liberal justices. They believe that liberty is the right to define one’s own meanings of everything from marriage to life to literally meaning itself.
Secular progressives this weekend will be celebrating this New America made in their own image, but I will not. I will be lamenting this nation’s loss of a roper understanding of freedom and even what it once meant to be an American.
— Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College and author, most recently, of Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage.
I’ll be running a 5K with several members of my family and then enjoying a nice backyard BBQ with friends and family!
— Jennifer Lahl is president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture.
The more the world opens up borders and barriers, giving global reach to individuals on many continents to access goods and information and communication, the more apparent our interconnectedness has become, and therefore our shared humanity. Pope Francis wisely calls us to our duty and opportunity to encounter people enslaved and endangered on the existential peripheries, and help free them from suffering. The freedom to speak out, spread awareness, and call people together to serve the true, good, and beautiful is a gift and blessing. To do so in my faith, family and work is a celebration.
— Sheila Liaugminas is host and managing editor of A Closer Look on Relevant Radio and the author of Non-Negotiable: Essential Principles of a Just Society and Humane Culture.
My husband and I have taken two refugees from China into our family. Their father, Zhang Lin, is in prison for his pro-democracy advocacy. His daughter, Anni, was kidnapped out of her elementary school and detained because of her father’s activism. We are celebrating that the United States is a land in which Anni can wake up in the morning, go to school, and live a normal life, without fear.
— Reggie Littlejohn is president of Women without Frontiers.
I am celebrating my faith and my marriage! My relationship with God through the Catholic faith is my deepest treasure. I’m spoiled to be able to receive the sacraments with some frequency — Mass almost every day, reconciliation frequently, etc. This is an invaluable blessing, especially when I consider how Christians are being martyred around the world for their faith daily. I am also profoundly grateful in moments of cultural crisis to be able to turn with confidence to the Church that unwaveringly speaks the truth and is the first expert in humanity. And, as a newlywed I continue to celebrate the sacrament of matrimony every day!!
— Jeanne Mancini is president of the March for Life.
Since the Fourth of July is not an ordinary day like other days, I will celebrate with a glass or two of champagne prepared in the wineries of our oldest and sometimes most irritating ally, France. And the event to be celebrated is not independence from our best ally and closest kin, Great Britain, but rather for the principles of self-government we learned from them and improved. As free citizens we are friends to others as well as among ourselves. Philosophers don’t get drunk, but these are truths one can drink to.
— Harvey Mansfield is professor of government at Harvard University.
This July 4th I hope to be celebrating my return home to my family after spending time with friends and colleagues in Israel who share our values. It’s very sad and scary that our friends there are surrounded by radicals who would like nothing more than to see their freedom and society destroyed on their way to destroying our freedom and society. We should celebrate those Americans in our military abroad and our police forces at home who keep us secure from the barbarism that is spreading in too many parts of the world today.
— John McLaughlin is a Republican strategist and a partner in the national polling firm McLaughlin & Associates.
This Independence Day I’m celebrating the hard-won freedom that in 1776 the Founders and Framers and Sons of Liberty wrested from the tyrannous British Empire of King George III — and I’m celebrating all those who in the years since have worked and sacrificed and fought and died to “keep the republic” that Franklin and all those other men created in Independence Hall in 1787.
— Eric Metaxas is the New York Times bestselling author of Bonhoeffer and host of the nationally syndicated Eric Metaxas Show.
George H. Nash
Independence Day this year reminds me of words by a remarkable American, Herbert Hoover. He lived and worked in many lands, as an engineer and then as a humanitarian, before he became president. The experience gave him a unique perspective on our country.
Here is what he said on his 74th birthday, in the summer of 1948:
I have seen the squalor of Asia, the frozen class barriers of Europe. And I was not a tourist. . . . I had to deal with their social systems and their governments. And outstanding everywhere to these great masses of people there was a hallowed word — America. To them, it was the hope of the world.
My every frequent homecoming has been a reaffirmation of the glory of America. Each time my soul was washed by the relief from grinding poverty of other nations, by the greater kindliness and frankness which comes from acceptance of equality and belief in wide-open opportunity to all who want a chance. It is more than that. It is a land of self-respect born alone of free men and women. . . .
The meaning of our word “America” flows from one pure source. Within the soul of America is the freedom of mind and spirit in man. Here alone are the open windows through which pours the sunlight of the human spirit. Here alone is human dignity not a dream, but an accomplishment. . . .
At the time our ancestors were proclaiming that the Creator had endowed all mankind with rights of freedom as the children of God, with a free will, there was being proclaimed by Hegel, and later by Karl Marx, a satanic philosophy of agnosticism and that the rights of man came from the State. The greatness of America today comes from one philosophy, the despair of Europe from the other.
Words to ponder as we celebrate the Fourth of July.
— George H. Nash is author of The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America since 1945 and several volumes about Herbert Hoover, among other books.
As Federalist 1 put it: They were testing (we are still testing) whether for the first time in history a nation can be formed, not by force or by chance, but by reflection and deliberate choice. Full reflection and deliberate choice, that is what American freedom means.
If I may then put forward what my reflective inquiry and deliberate personal choice tell me — this is also what the best human love means: Reflection and choice that leads with the full reflection and deliberate choice of two persons to commit their lives to each other for all time and forever, and for the purpose of completing full human love, presiding over the complete flourishing of their offspring, and adding to the sustainable growth of the human race. All this for the sake of the full human community.
And may I also add: With full respect for the quite different reflections and choices by others. A whole Union of mutual respect for others, and liberty and justice for all.
— Michael Novak is author of Writing from Left to Right and blogs at Coming Down to Earth.
I’m celebrating that we live in a country where churches can still freely proclaim the Gospel, and that tens of thousands of Bible-based volunteers continue to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners, care for widows and orphans, and teach about God — even though a pandemic of pandering pundits disparages them for clinging to purportedly outmoded values and beliefs. These volunteers put into action what Paul wrote: “You were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
— Marvin Olasky is editor-in-chief of World.
John J. Pitney
This Independence Day, we should celebrate the people who risk their lives for that independence. We should always remember the men and women of the armed services, but should also keep in mind another group. There are 113 stars on the wall in the lobby of the CIA’s headquarters. They represent people who died in the line of duty, some of whose names have to remain secret. We should celebrate these heroes, too, including those whose names we’ll never know.
— John J. Pitney, Jr. is Roy P. Crocker Professor of American Politics at Claremont McKenna College.
Karen Swallow Prior
This Independence Day, I am celebrating the great blessing it is to live in a land where we are free to live according to the dictates of reason and conscience, in cooperation with and in responsibility toward my fellow citizens. We are a diverse and pluralistic nation, and that is its strength and beauty. It has not been and is not so for many. I am grateful indeed.
— Karen Swallow Prior is professor of English and modern languages at Liberty University.
I am not “celebrating” this Fourth of July. The standards and principles on which this nation was founded have been undermined at the most basic level, that of human life and its origins, by the very instruments of government our Founders designed to prevent a tyranny stemming from its own constituted branches. What I do celebrate is the Socratic principle on which our civilization itself was founded, namely, “That it is never right to do wrong.” An order to which our minds are directed does exist in things, including human things. This fact remains true to celebrate on any Fourth of July in any land, not just our own.
— James V. Schall, S.J., is professor emeritus at Georgetown University.
I celebrate Independence Day with Calvin Coolidge at his birthplace, the tiny village of Plymouth Notch, Vt. As many NR readers may know, CC was actually born on July 4. In the morning, the Notch will host a naturalization of new citizens. Later, there is a parade to the president’s grave. Jenny Harville, Coolidge’s great granddaughter, will sing the national anthem this year. In the afternoon, Jenny and Coolidge impersonator Jim Cooke gather with others in Coolidge’s church to read the Coolidge autobiography aloud in its entirety. If you drive up, or over, you may even be able to sit in the Coolidge pew (left side). Last year NR editor Rich Lowry graced us and spoke on Coolidge and Lincoln. Join us this year and read a line or two yourself. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
The words from the autobiography that resonate most regard Coolidge’s decision not to run for president again in 1928. “It is difficult for me in high office to avoid the malady of self-delusion,” explained “30.” “The chances of having wise and faithful public service are increased by a change in the presidential office after a moderate length of time.”
— Amity Shlaes chairs the board of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation and serves as presidential scholar at King’s College.
The Rev. Robert A. Sirico
This Independence Day is more contemplative than celebratory for me. There are many things to ponder as we see, in various ways, the foundation of civilization and ordered liberty itself being eroded on so many fronts and in such a short period of time. It is a time to think, to speak with trusted friends and, of course, to pray to the Author of Liberty.
— Father Robert A. Sirico is president and co-founder of the Acton Institute and the author, most recently, of Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy.
On this and every Independence Day — indeed every day — I celebrate the remarkable blessing of having been born an American. I celebrate those who have come to the United States to partake in the blessings of freedom for over 200 years. I celebrate the rule of law, tattered as it has become. And this year, I celebrate our nation’s past, in the hope that the spirit of liberty built in that past will withstand this current era of intolerance, fear, and petty, suffocating, bureaucracy.
— Bradley A. Smith is Josiah H. Blackmore II/Shirley M. Nault Professor of Law at Capital University Law School.
I am celebrating that fact I live in a nation that still, for the most part, respects my right to self-determination and self-actualization, professionally and personally. I am celebrating my ability to move freely within a vast and diverse nation, express my opinions without the hindrance of government oversight, and see my children choose where to work, live, and play. I am celebrating the wonders of living in a nation that still values innovation and dynamism, allowing me to connect, establish, and reestablish connections with family, friends, and colleagues on a global scale.
— Samuel R. Staley is director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University.
As we celebrate the birth of our nation, the right-to-life movement can also celebrate the continued decline in the number of abortions that we are seeing nationwide. We rejoice that a majority of Americans still reject Roe v. Wade’s doctrine of abortion on demand for any reason. And we celebrate the millions of lives that have been saved as a result of pro-life policies and laws over the past 40 years. There’s still much to be done, but we know that we’re moving our country in the right direction, and we look forward to the day when we can celebrate Independence Day knowing that the most vulnerable members of our society are protected by our laws.
— Carol Tobias is president of the National Right to Life Committee.
At a time when freedom is either diminishing or being threatened around the world, July 4th is a reminder that we in the U.S. still have our freedom. This includes the freedom to worship as we see fit. As this year, July 4th is on a Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, I will spend Independence Day 2015/5775 praying, reading, and visiting with family. I will also raise a glass in memory of my mentor and friend Ben Wattenberg, who died this week. Ben’s love of America knew no bounds, and I’m sorry that he didn’t get to see one more July 4th, his favorite day of the year.
— Tevi Troy is president of American Health Policy Institute and the author of What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House.
In America, we have exercised our freedom to completely foul up our health sector with massive government intrusion. But the lessons learned also can motivate us to get back on the right track toward free markets, with free competition and freedom of choice. The American people are learning for themselves that we can’t provide free health care and health insurance to millions of people without costs and adverse consequences. If a freedom-loving, conservative candidate prevails in the 2016 election, we will be able to restore the precious freedom to make our own choices about the most important and personal of decisions — our health.
— Grace-Marie Turner is president of the Galen Institute.
Hans von Spakovsky
On July 4, I always feel a profound sense of gratitude that I got the chance to be an American. My parents immigrated here in 1951, having survived some of the worst horrors and atrocities of the 20th century, from the Russian Revolution to World War II. So my family got a new start in this great democracy, a bastion of liberty and opportunity. Yet recent events remind me that we have a host of external and internal enemies who hate this country and want to see it destroyed. Fortunately, my patriotic batteries always get recharged on July 4th and I for one don’t intend to stand by and watch them pull us down without a fight.
— Hans von Spakovsky is manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative and senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
There’s no real grilling tradition here in Erin, so I’ll be having a pint in my local and celebrating what used to be, and what might and should be again. If political independence was worth fighting for once, isn’t both political and personal independence worth fighting for again?
— Michael Walsh is author of the upcoming The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of America.
I am in Berlin, Germany. Independence Day carries the weight of America’s role in defeating Stalinism and Soviet Communism in continental Europe. With the disturbing rise of mainstreaming unfree countries such as Communist Cuba and Iran, I’m celebrating an America that, traditionally speaking, pursued democratization and free markets in closed societies. In short, Independence Day is about advancing American security and interests in the wider world.
— Benjamin Weinthal is fellow for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Thomas Joseph White
Freedom has its root in our desire for happiness. It is the amazing capacity we have to seek the truth concerning what is genuinely good for ourselves and others, to distinguish it from what is harmful or evil, and to pursue what will make us happy with wisdom and effectiveness. Freedom is what allows us to love other persons, and to be loved by them, to love the truth above all things, and to broach the mystery of God, with both genuine questioning and joyful reverence. A healthy state is a state where authentic freedom is nourished and supported, in view of the search for happiness, truth, virtuous love, and the encounter with the sacred.
— Thomas Joseph White is a Dominican priest who lives and teaches at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.