Today is a celebration of something new and unique in human history: the birth of a new nation on the basis of ideas rather than conquest, creed, tradition or tribe. We are a nation of ambitious riff-raff. A rag-tag collection of religious dissenters, merchants, criminals, tradesmen, and immigrants seeking a better life free of the old world's tyranny and entrenched privilege.
It wasn't a perfect independence. A large and important part of our population were brought here against their will as slaves. Political freedom would take generations to be fully unlocked for every person. And yet, as Frederick Douglass would later point out, even these deep injustices had the seeds planted for their liberation in the ideas on which the United States was founded. Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness, protected for each individual on the basis of their unique and inalienable natural rights.
As I look into the future, I don't know where our country is headed. A vocal minority seem to have forgotten our birth as a nation of immigrants. While another minority wishes us to abandon economic liberty in favor of state-run overseers. Still more misunderstand that the right to pursue ones happiness is not its guarantee. Yet when I look at the old world from which we emigrated, I can see that for all our problems, these United States remain the best hope for pluralism, toleration and freedom. Our economic and civic institutions, weakened through centralization and under assault by populism, are still the most robust and resilient of any modern social order.
And so, on this day, our celebration of independence from a distance ruling elite, our celebration of a nation born of the best intellectual tradition humanity has ever produced, I give thanks for being an American. I give thanks, as we all should do, to be born in this great nation.
Happy Independence Day. God bless the American idea.