First of All Be An American


Screen Shot 2020-07-04 at 10.00.49 AM.pngFrom President Calvin Coolidge’s 1926 4th of July Speech:

Whatever else we may say of it, the Declaration of Independence was profoundly American.

In its main features, the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man — these are not elements which we can see and touch.

They are ideals.

They have their roots in religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We cannot continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause.

Governments do not make ideals, but ideals make governments.

And here is an abridged, modernized (and shorter) version of the speech.

Coolidge again (Memorial Day 1924):

When each citizen submits himself to the authority of law he does not thereby decrease his independence or freedom, but, rather, increases it.  By recognizing that he is a part of a larger body which is banded together for a common purpose he becomes more than an individual–he rises to a new dignity of citizenship.  Instead of finding himself restricted and confined by rendering obedience to public law, he finds himself protected and defended and in the exercise of increased and increasing rights.

It is true that as civilization becomes more complex it is necessary to surrender more and more of the of freedom of action and live more and more according to the rules of public regulation, but it is also true that the rewards and privileges which come to a member of organized society increase in a still greater proportion…             We need a more definite realization that all of our country must stand or fall together, and that it is the duty of the government to promote the welfare of each part, and the duty of the citizen to remember that he must be first of all an American.

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