Voices of Freedom
By Richard G. Johnstone, Jr., Editor

Richard Johnstone
Richard Johnstone

This year’s Independence Day — July the 4th — will surely be the most intense celebration and bittersweet birthday for our nation in at least a generation. Freedom’s burden is never heavier nor is its sweetness ever more precious than when it’s violently confronted by tyranny. And on September 11, we were savagely attacked by tyrannical forces that want to destroy us and destroy our multicultural, multi-faith society and our democratic system.

But ultimately, tyranny fails, tyrants are toppled, and humanity’s gradual march toward universal freedom consigns the villains to the scorned or ignored “remnant rack” of history. Tyranny has worn many masks from ideology’s far right and far left fringes over the years: the masks of fascism, of communism, and now, of terrorism. Osama bin Laden and his vile gaggle of miscreant murderers will fail as surely as did their anarchical ancestors—Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo, Lenin, Stalin, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, and on and on, ad nauseum.

Brave voices 226 years ago spoke up for liberty and self-determination, leading today to the strongest, freest country on earth, populated by people from every culture, country and continent. Let’s listen to some voices old and new, conservative and liberal, from here and abroad, talk about how precious and how powerful this thing called freedom is.

There’s something contagious about demanding freedom.
Robin Morgan
contemporary American 
author and poet

Democracy is being able to say no to the boss.
Aldous Huxley
20th-century British philosopher, 
critic, and author of Brave New World

Government is too big and important to be left to the politicians.
Chester Bowles
20th-century American ad executive, 
author, politician, and Presidential advisor

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little 
temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Benjamin Franklin
18th-century American statesman, 
scientist, philosopher, publisher, 
author, and a drafter of the 
Declaration of Independence

Of the many things we have done to democracy in the past, 
the worst has been the indignity of taking it for granted.
Max Lerner
20th-century American 
historian and author

Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, 
are men who want rain without thunder and lightning.
Frederick Douglass
19th-century American abolitionist, 
orator, newspaper publisher, and early 
founder of the civil rights movement

Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but 
man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.

Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr
20th-century American theologian, 
widely credited with composing 
“The Serenity Prayer”

That this nation, under God, shall have a new 
birth of freedom, and that government of the people, 
by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Abraham Lincoln
16th President of the United States, 
statesman and orator, from his 
Address at Gettysburg, 1863

If you want to understand democracy, spend less time in the 
library with Plato and more time in the buses with people.

Simeon Strunsky
early 20th-century American 
ournalist and humorist

Loss of freedom seldom happens overnight. Oppression doesn’t 
stand on the doorstep with toothbrush moustache and swastika 
armband — it creeps up insidiously … step by step, and all 
of a sudden the unfortunate citizen realizes that it is gone.

Baron Lane
20th-century British judge 
and Lord Chief Justice of England

Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people 
alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories.

Thomas Jefferson
Virginian, 3rd President of the United States, 
primary author of the Declaration of Independence, 
scientist, inventor, philosopher, architect and farmer

The progress of democracy seems irresistible, because it 
is the most uniform, the most ancient, and the most 
permanent tendency which is to be found in history.

Alexis de Tocqueville
19th-century French author whose two-volume work, 
Democracy in America (volume one, 1835; volume two, 
1840), is still widely quoted and considered one of the 
most insightful and comprehensive books ever 
written about the United States.

Virginia’s electric cooperatives wish you a safe and joyful Independence Day.


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