On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote in a letter to his wife, Abigail, that Independence Day “ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
True to Adams’ words, people across the country today will be celebrating the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence with music, parades, fireworks, and more.
But Adams’ letter didn’t stop there, and neither should our thoughts on this July 4. Adams continued on to say that
You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means.
Indeed, amidst our celebrations today let us remember all those who sacrificed and continue to sacrifice to protect this country and the freedoms that make it unique. And let us commit ourselves to working to protect those freedoms as well–including freedoms near and dear to FIRE’s heart, the First Amendment rights to free expression, free association, and religious liberty.
Standing up for your rights against those who would deny them is not easy. For students and faculty members, the easier path when faced with potential punishment is often to simply back down: to issue a forced apology or to accept a modest punishment for your expression rather than fight for the right to free speech in the kangaroo courts of university judicial systems; or, perhaps most frequently, to simply never speak up at all.
But if you believe that America and its freedoms are worth celebrating, consider choosing the other path. Don’t sit back as your university restricts your right to speak and associate freely. Instead, write letters to your university leadership and to your school paper. Organize peaceful demonstrations. If you attend a public university, you can even consider taking your school to court for violating your First Amendment rights–many students have done so successfully.
In all of these endeavors, FIRE stands ready to help. We will be closed on Monday in observance of Independence Day, and we will be reflecting on the importance of the freedoms we work every day to protect. We hope you will do the same.