Lankford Asks Americans to Continue to Build on Our Foundation of Freedom Ahead of the Fourth of July
CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s remarks on YouTube.
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today, ahead of the Fourth of July holiday, delivered a patriotic account of the brave Americans who founded our nation, set up our national values, and continued to reinforce the need for all Americans to work to keep us free. Lankford asked his fellow senators, Oklahomans, and Americans around the nation to contemplate how we can serve our nation how we can pass on the freedom we enjoy—for which so many have given everything—to our children. As our nation continues to grapple with difficult issues, Lankford brought the focus in Washington, DC, back to what enables us to disagree and disagree strongly: our freedom as Americans.
I often come to this floor to be able to speak about issues of the day, agreements that we have, — disagreements that we have, ways we can solve the problems of the nation. Today I come to tell a story.
1774, an Englishman met Benjamin Franklin, spent a lot of time together just in conversations. And Franklin convinced this young sailor and writer and young friend to move to America, to move to his hometown, to Philadelphia. A few months later, 1774, he did. Franklin saw something in this young man that no one else saw; that Englishman who loved freedom and who saw the glaring injustice of the British crown. Two years later on January 10, 1776, wrote a short pamphlet that changed the course of history. The man’s name was Thomas Paine and the short work that he wrote was called Common Sense. It was the first publication that declared we should call for independence for these 13 colonies. It didn’t include his name because if it included his name, there would be a certain death warrant from the king. But it made the case for freedom, for each person, for an elected government rather than a monarchy in the case of religious liberty. In short, he made the case for the United States of America.
He wrote these words, ‘The cause of America is in great measure the cause of all mankind. Many circumstances have and will arise which are not local but universal, and through which the principles of all lovers of mankind are affected. In the event of which their affections are interesting.’ He wrote about the rule of law and how that would be different than living under a monarchy, and he challenged the young colonists to be able to pursue more. He wrote, ‘But where some say is the king of America? I tell you, friend, he reigns above and doth not make havoc of mankind like the royal brute of Great Britain, yet he may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors let a day be solemnly set apart. Proclaiming the charter, let it be brought forth placed into divine law the word of God. Let a crown be placed there upon which the world may know that so far we may approve a monarchy that in America the law is king. For as in absolute governments, the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king.’ And he wrote, ‘As to religion, I hold to it that this this indispensable duty of government to protect all conscious professors thereof, and I know of no other business which government hath to do therewith. Suspicion is the companion of mean souls, he wrote. And he said it affords us a larger field for our Christian kindness where we were all one way of thinking, our religious dispositions would want matter for probation and on this liberal principle, I look to the various denominations among us to be like children of the same family, differing only in what is called their Christian names.’
He shared a lot of great ideals and common sense. He challenged the colonists to dream of an America that would set the example for the world. Thomas Paine’s ideas weren’t all great and we didn’t accept all of his ideas. In fact, he wrote a long section in Common Sense saying, that when we form our own constitution, we should take these 13 colonies and we should elect a president and alternate among each state so each state would in turn have a different president for the whole group. It’s a fairly terrible idea that we never implemented. But this passion about the law being king, we did. This passion about religious liberty, we did. This passion about America would be the example to all mankind, we did.
150,000 copies of Common Sense were printed. That is an enormous number, for that time period. On that January day when the first printings of Common Sense started being passed around the colonies, it fanned the flame of that spark, of freedom in the hearts of the colonists. By June 11, 1766, Congress had appointed a committee of five, to draft the Declaration. John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert Livingstone of New York, and Roger Sherman of—I think two redheads in that group. The Declaration ended with this simple paragraph, we’re familiar with that Declaration. It said, ‘We therefore the representatives of the United States of America, in general Congress assembled appealing to the supreme judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions do in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies solemnly publish and declare that these united colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states.’ And it ended with, ‘And for the support of this declaration with a firm reliance of the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.’ And they gave that all.
John Hart, one of the signers of the Declaration from New Jersey, ended up hiding in the woods that December of 1776 just a few months later while the Hessian soldiers hunted him across the countryside. He died before the war’s end. Richard Stockton also of New Jersey wasn’t so lucky. He was dragged from his bed, thrown into prison, treated like a criminal. His home was looted, his fortune stripped away. Thomas Nelson of Virginia, he commanded the militia and served as a governor during the revolution. He had to instruct the artillerymen to fire at his own house when the British started using it as their headquarters. Nelson had used his personal credit to raise money for the cause. The revolution left him in distress. He was unable to ever recover what he had lost. Thomas Hayward, Arthur Middleton, Everett Rutledge, three South Carolina signers served in their states militia and were captured when the British seized Charleston. They spent the rest of the time in prison. They pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
On that December, when all this was going on to all these signers of the Declaration, Thomas Paine wrote again. This time he wrote directly to the patriots serving with George Washington in the freezing winter. On December 23, 1776, Thomas Paine wrote these words, ‘These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier, the sunshine patriot will in this crisis shrink from the service of their country. But he that stands by it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered. Yet we have this consolation with us that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. It is dearness only that gives every living thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods, and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.’
It is a good thing for us to be able to stop and reflect on these simple words, what we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. Sometimes I am afraid that as we approach the Fourth of July each year we have forgotten the sacrifices of previous generations. In our time period and in this wealthy moment in our nation’s history, we seem to have esteemed too lightly what was obtained too cheaply and forget the great sacrifices of the past. Generation after generation of American history has set an example of how that we have worked for a more perfect union, generation after generation has served each other and the children that come after them so that they could have a better future. It is our generation’s turn. The generation that I speak of could have never dreamed of the Capitol that stands on this hill. The generation that I speak of could have never dreamed of 50 states that would cover this continent. But they did dream this because it’s in Thomas Paine’s introduction, the cause of America is in great measure, the cause of all mankind. This Fourth of July we should recommit ourselves to the cause of freedom, the future of our nation, and the service to our children and the children not yet born. We are still a great nation conceived in liberty, born to greatness, if we are willing to work and sacrifice and give for each other. No generation in the history of the world has inherited more than we have. No generation, should not receive it too cheaply or hold it too lightly.
Ironically, as I end my story, an Englishman that became a writer and the inspirer of a nation. I must tell you the end. Thomas Paine died a bitter and broken man. He remained the revolutionary and the fighter. He could never stop searching for the next revolution. He went off to France to be able to support the French revolution and almost lost his head for it, ended up in prison there. He came back to America and determined that George Washington wasn’t as loyal as he was, and he spent his last years writing against President Washington and that he was the real traitor and he wasn’t strong enough. He ended up dying alone, isolated, and rejecting his faith, and a bitter man.
Fellow senators and fellow Americans, the war’s been won. Freedom, that gift has been passed on to us. Let’s protect it. Let’s cherish it. Let’s pass it on. Each generation should be passionate about passing on that to the next generation. That’s why on this Fourth of July, it’s not just a day off, it’s not just a day to be at the mall, and it’s not just a great day to be at a lake. It’s a great day to contemplate how you will serve our nation in the days ahead in this generation and how you can pass on the freedom that we have to our children. Our nation still needs people who will build on the foundation of liberty. We need writers and soldiers and farmers and moms and dads. We still need people that will run for city council and school board, people that will pick up trash in the neighborhood, people that will march in a protest, then intentionally go love people and work for reconciliation of broken relationships. We need people who will start new businesses, give to nonprofits, get involved in a church, and love their neighbor as their self. We are free. As the Bible says in 1 Peter Chapter 2, ‘We should live as free people but not use our freedom as a cover-up for evil.’
Those of us who have freedom should help others to live in the same freedom we have, to serve with joy. That’s the legacy that was passed to us. That’s the legacy we should pass down.