Lessons for Independence Day: Pulling Together Keeps America’s Promise

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Americans this week will observe Independence Day. Growing up, it seemed like the Fourth of July packed a summer of activities into a single day. I looked forward to the annual parade in Cedar Falls and watched fireworks coming from Island Park on the bluff above the Cedar River. 

The American flag waved prominently along the parade route and the entire community gathered shoulder-to-shoulder, proud and grateful to celebrate the blessings of freedom together. 

I’ve always enjoyed learning about our nation’s founding history. As an Iowa farm kid, I thought about Patrick Henry’s declaration, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” and how hometown heroes carried the torch of freedom to help liberate Europe from the Nazi regime. Around the kitchen table, my family discussed public affairs and politics. My parents talked about the freedoms we enjoy in America – to own property, open a business, worship without fear of persecution and vote in free and fair elections. 

My parents taught me not to take Independence Day for granted. The founding patriots put their lives and livelihoods on the line for the American experiment. This fragile experiment continues today, 248 years later. Our self-governing society is bound by the four corners of our nation’s founding charters: liberty, freedom, equality and justice. 

We are united by our identity as Americans; not by creed, ethnicity, crown or bloodlines. 

The 56 individuals who signed the Declaration of Independence had everything to lose yet felt they had even more to gain. They boldly proclaimed, “to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor” that “these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

In his Farewell Address, President George Washington called on Americans to unite around our shared ideals proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence and enshrined in the Constitution. Against a backdrop of growing ideological and regional divisions, Washington’s wisdom stands the test of time: “The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism…” 

In the last month, I’ve witnessed Iowans pulling together with “indissoluble” resilience, as implored by our nation’s first president. Iowa recently has experienced catastrophic natural disasters, with historic flooding, tornados and severe storms damaging homes, businesses and public infrastructure in dozens of counties. The relief and recovery efforts now underway reflect Iowans’ selflessness and willingness to embrace civic responsibility. 

Neighbors and strangers have pulled together to power through whatever comes their way. During my recent visits in Greenfield and Spencer, I saw gut-wrenching damage to homes from an E-4 tornado; flash floods overtook Main Streets, cars and homes. Families and business owners shared with me the impacts they’ve suffered in the aftermath of these natural disasters. They also recounted the tremendous support they’ve received from across our state. Emergency response teams and volunteers sprung to action, providing meals, shelter, clothing, diapers, over-the-counter medications, batteries, sump pumps, and more. 

Despite piping hot rhetoric in public discourse, which fuels algorithms and click-bait online, my hope for America isn’t dampened. The community spirit that flourishes in Iowa during challenging times tells me the cornerstone of our republic remains strong. When French Minister Alexis de Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America in the 19th century, he praised the work ethic, self-confidence and civic associations that strengthened American communities. These characteristics have underpinned our American culture and economy for more than 200 years and continue to present day.

History teaches us we must never forget the gift of our founding nor yield to ambivalence about America’s promise. It is our civic responsibility to pave a stronger, better, brighter future for generations to come. 

I know it’s possible. In two years’ time, I look forward to celebrating the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence with a renewed commitment to civic connections. As a society, let’s commit to furthering America’s pursuit of Happiness and demonstrating the love of neighbor Iowans have shown leading up to this Independence Day. 


The Leader

The Leader 
365 State Street, Garner, IA 50438
Phone: 1-641-923-2684
Fax: 1-800-340-0805

Mid-America Publishing

This newspaper is part of the Mid-America Publishing Family. Please visit www.midampublishing.com for more information.