REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATION
Independence Historic National Park
4:30 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Mayor, thank you very much. I appreciate so much your
hospitality. Laura and I are honored to be here in Philadelphia. It's the
perfect place to celebrate our nation's birthday. (Applause.)
I told the Mayor in front of the country when I addressed the Congress that I
was coming to Philadelphia to celebrate the wonderful missions that take place
in this grand city. Mr. Mayor, thank you for allowing me to come, and thank you
for your gracious hospitality. Same to the Governor of this great state, our
close friend, Tom Ridge, and his wife, Michelle. Thank you all very much for
It's an honor to be on the stage with the senior Senator, who married quite
well, himself. (Laughter.) I appreciate you being here, Senator, and the
honorable. It's an honor to be on the stage with leaders of the faith community
in Philadelphia. Distinguished guests, my fellow citizens, thank you for your
warm welcome. (Applause.)
And thank you, Mr. Mayor, for your lovely gift. Laura and I will make a
special place for it at the White House.
Today we celebrate American independence, in the place of America's birth,
close to a symbol of American liberty. As millions know, to see the Liberty Bell
is a moving experience. In America we set aside certain places and treasures
like this to protect them from the passing of the years. We grant them special
care to mark a moment in time. Here in Philadelphia, these markers are all
around us, reminders of our history.
This is a dynamic and modern city. Yet, if the founders, themselves were
here, they would know the place. Benjamin Franklin and his wife could still find
their way from here to the corner where they first saw each other, at Market and
4th. John Adams could make his way to City Tavern and show us the spot where he
first shook the hand of George Washington. Thomas Jefferson would still find
waiting for him the room where he drafted the Declaration of Independence.
And each of the founders, coming here, would know the ring of the Liberty
Bell. It rang to announce the first public reading of the Declaration of
Independence, 225 years ago. Those new citizens of a nation just four days old
heard inspiring words, but not original thoughts. Our founders considered
themselves heirs to principles that were timeless and truths that were
When Jefferson sat down to write, he was trying, he said, to place before
mankind "the common sense of the subject." The common sense of the subject was
that we should be free. And though great evils would linger, the world would
never be the same after July 4, 1776.
A wonderful country was born, and a revolutionary idea sent forth to all
mankind: Freedom, not by the good graces of government, but as the birthright of
every individual. Equality, not as a theory of philosophers, but by the design
of our Creator. Natural rights, not for the few, not even for a fortunate many,
but for all people in all place, in all times.
The world still echoes with the ideals of America's Declaration. Our ideals
have been accepted in many countries, and bitterly opposed by tyrants. They are
the mighty rock on which we have built our nation. They are the hope of all who
are oppressed. They are the standard to which we hold others, and the standard
by which we measure ourselves.
Our greatest achievements have come when we have lived up to these ideals.
Our greatest tragedies have come when we have failed to uphold them.
When Abraham Lincoln wondered whether civil war was preferable to permanent
slavery, he knew where to seek guidance. Speaking in Independence Hall he said,
"I have never had a feeling, politically, that did not spring from the
sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence." The Declaration,
Lincoln said, gave promise that in due time the weight would be lifted from the
shoulders of all men and all should have an equal chance.
From the ideals in the Declaration came the laws and the Constitution,
including the free exercise of religion. The Liberty Bell was originally cast to
mark the 50th anniversary of William Penn's Charter of Privileges, the first
guarantee of religious freedom in this commonwealth. Now, exactly three
centuries after William Penn's charter, the founders would be pleased to see
that we have respected this right of the people and the limitation on the
government. They knew what dangers can follow when government either dictates or
frustrates the exercise of religion.
Our founders would also be pleased to walk these streets again and to find,
amid the problems of modern life, a familiar American spirit of faith and good
works. They would see the signs of poverty and want, but also acts of great
kindness and charity. They would see addiction and the wreckage it brings. But
they would also see in the works of the religious groups and charities
throughout this city the power that can rescue abandoned hopes and repair a
In a world very different from theirs they would see different kinds of
hardships, fears, and suffering. Yet, they would also recognize the brotherly
love that gave this city its name.
Your Mayor and I have just come from an Independence Day celebration in North
Philadelphia, organized by a great American named Herbert Lusk. (Applause.) Herb
first came into prominence as an athlete. Today he is pastor of Greater Exodus
Baptist Church. (Applause.) And its parishioners still like him. (Laughter and
applause.) Herb's church is one of the hundreds of churches and synagogues and
mosques in this city where worship of the Almighty is expressed in service to
neighbors in need.
In every part of Philadelphia, caring people are doing the work of
compassion. They teach boys and girls to read, as in a program called Youth
Education for Tomorrow, where more than 20 faith-based literacy centers are
producing great results for your city's children.
At the Jesus School in North Philadelphia, little Aneeisha Graham came a year
ago, not knowing any letters of the alphabet. Today, at age 7, she reads at the
4th grade level. (Applause.) Aneeisha is with us today. It's great to see you,
darling. Thank you for coming. (Applause.)
Other faith-based groups in this city operate shelters for the destitute and
the homeless. They bring kindness and understanding to young women facing
domestic violence or crisis pregnancies. They give time and attention to the
children of prisoners. These are the kinds of citizens every society needs --
citizens who speak for the voiceless and feed the hungry and protect the weak
and comfort the afflicted.
America's founding documents give us religious liberty in principle; these
Americans show us religious liberty in action. Religious liberty is more than
the right to believe in God's love; it is the right to be an instrument of God's
Such work is beyond the reach of government, and beyond the role of
government. And those who hold positions of power should not be wary or hostile
toward faith-based charities, or other community groups which perform important
and good works. We should welcome their conviction and contribution in all its
So today I call on the United States Congress to pass laws promoting and
encouraging faith-based and community groups in their important public work, and
to never discriminate against them. (Applause.)
These soldiers in the armies of compassion deserve our support. They often
need our support, and by taking their side we act in the best interests and
tradition of our country. Without churches and charities, many of our citizens
who have lost hope would be left to their own struggles and their own faith. And
as I well know, they are not the only ones whose lives can be changed and
uplifted by the influence of faith in God.
The founding generation discerned in that faith the source of our own rights
-- a divine gift of dignity, found equally in every human life. Our nation has
always been guided by a moral compass. In every generation men and women have
protested terrible wrongs and worked for justice -- for the abolition of
slavery, the triumph of civil rights; for the end of child labor, the equal
treatment of women, and the protection of innocent life.
Not every reformer in our history has been religious, but many have been
motivated by a scriptural vision in which "justice rolls down like waters and
righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."
We welcome religion in our common life because it leads millions of Americans
to serve their neighbor, and because it leads countless others to speak for
justice -- from African American churches to Catholic bishops. Religious people
said Dr. Martin Luther King should not be the servant of the state, nor the
master of the state, but the conscience of the state.
In my inaugural address, I asked Americans to seek a common good beyond their
comfort; to serve their nation, beginning with their neighbor. Today I urge
Americans to consider what contributions we all can make -- and there's plenty
work for us all. Every person can find another to help. Nearly every community
of conscience and faith has more to share, and corporate and foundation America
can give more and give wiser.
In this way, we all become more responsible citizens. And by extending to all
the promise of America, we show an important kind of patriotism. Seventy-five
years ago, our 30th President, the only President born on Independence Day,
spoke words that apply to our time. Calvin Coolidge said, "We live in an age of
science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create
our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come
On this 4th of July, 2001, a great anniversary of our nation's birth, and a
great anniversary of religious liberty, we remember the ideals of America and
the things of the spirit that sustain them.
The Liberty Bell has been mostly silent for two centuries. And during the
Revolution, it was unseen, hidden under the floorboards of a church in
Allentown. Yet, even in silence, it has always borne one message, cast for the
ages with the words of the Old Testament: "Proclaim liberty throughout all the
land, unto all the inhabitants thereof."
In this place of history, we honor the first generation of Americans who
followed those words. And we give thanks to the God who watched over our country
then, and who watches to this very day.
Thank you, all. And may God bless America. (Applause.)
4:45 P.M. EDT