JULY 4, 1959
HYDE PARK—The Fourth of July is a date for rejoicing in the United States. All over the country it is celebrated in different ways, but I always have wished that one little ceremony could be identical in every city, town and village.
On this day I would like to have the Declaration of Independence read by the mayor or other head official, whoever he may be, on the steps of the town or city hall. Then I would like a short speech, not an oration, telling both young and old how this document came to be written and the ages of the men who signed it.
We should be reminded that the founding fathers were, for the most part, very young, and that it took great courage to face the conditions of their day. Their actions gave hope to people all over the world, which was somewhat smaller than it is today.
I think that if it became our habit to think of the Declaration of Independence and our country as it existed in 1776, we would face today's problems with more courage.
There are many ways in which today we could express our patriotism and the world in which we live.
In Westchester County, New York, one community has a slogan for the Fourth of July: "Independence—everyone is declaring it. We are sharing it." They are using the day to raise funds for the people of Korea, thereby sharing some of our independence.
Other communities might make sure that they have no citizens who do not share fully in the independence promised every citizen of this nation. This might mean taking a close look at the local employment conditions, for no one who is out of a job can be really independent or has a job that doesn't pay a living wage. No one can be really independent who suffers any civil disability or who does not receive equal justice before the law.
But all these things can still exist in our country if we forget about the Declaration of Independence and the fact that we must implement it every day of our lives to make its promises the reality of our world today.
The Fourth of July is not just a day for having a good time. It is a day when we urge our citizens to remember that in this country we paint the picture of democracy for the whole world to see, and what we do here may well determine whether people in other parts of the world follow the Communist or the democratic idea.