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Blogs by Ambassador Ray

July 4: U.S. celebrates long walk to freedom, democracy

July 4, 2010
Ambassador Ray during July 4th commemoration (Photo: PAS, Harare)

Ambassador Ray (left) with veteran journalist Njabulo Ncube at an event to commemorate U.S. independence held in Harare

Two hundred and thirty four years ago a group of ordinary people; lawyers, craftsmen, merchants, and farmers, chafing under dictatorial rule by a sovereign an ocean away, did an extraordinary thing. They put at risk their property, their freedom; their very lives, and rebelled.  Their initial aim was not to break away, but to demand justice and equal treatment.  When their pleas fell on deaf ears, they took the only remaining course for anyone who desires freedom and decent treatment; they took up arms and fought for it.

The result of that extraordinary action was the United States of America; a country founded on the principle that ‘all men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’

This call for freedom must be, however, put into proper perspective.  The founding fathers, in their demand for freedom, did not envision it applying to women, slaves of African descent, Native Americans, or those without property.  But, the seeds of individual freedom, once planted, grow like the savannah grass, and eventually cover the landscape.  In their wisdom, the founding fathers created enduring institutions that ensured the stability and endurance of the fledgling republic.  A separation of powers among the branches of government to guard against totalitarianism; making each branch separate and equal, providing checks and balances.  Most importantly, though, the U.S. Constitution enshrined the principles of freedom making it possible, in coordination with those same institutions, for those initially left out to eventually gain a measure of freedom.

The establishment of democracy and representative government in the United States was not an easy task, and one could justifiably argue that it remains a work in progress.  It required a bloody civil war, court challenges, and a civil rights movement to guarantee the integrity of the union and to grant freedom and dignity to all citizens.

Regrettably, even today, there are groups within our population who do not yet enjoy all the rights and privileges envisioned by the founding fathers.  But the institutions endure, and the fight for freedom continues; in the courtrooms, the legislature, and in the minds of every American, rather than on the battlefield.

As we Americans celebrate the 234th anniversary of our independence, we advance the fervent hope that every person on earth can someday enjoy the ‘inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’

Charles A. Ray, Ambassador 
July 4, 2010