Message to the Nation on the Observance of Independence Day

July 3, 1983

My fellow Americans:

Today we join together to celebrate freedom's birthday. America is 207 years old. That makes us the oldest living democracy on Earth. I think there's a good reason for that.

It's always been my belief that by a Divine plan this nation was placed between the two oceans to be sought out and found by those with a special brand of courage and love of freedom. Can we imagine the courage it took back in 1620 to pick up family, bid goodby to friends, board those small ships, and set sail across a mighty ocean toward a new future in an unknown world?

Can we appreciate what the patriots endured in that bone-cold snow at Valley Forge when they spent a winter without enough food or medicine or even boots to cover their feet? Maybe we can't. Maybe we look around our more comfortable world of 1983 and say, ``That's more than we've known or could endure.''

But look closer. Look in our own neighborhoods and families, and you will see America is still a land of heroes with all the courage and love of freedom that ever was before. And that's our best hope for the future.

We've seen our heroes at Normandy, Bastogne, Guadalcanal, and Pork Chop Hill. We saw the agony of our POW's inside prison camps in North Vietnam. We held our breath, then rejoiced and cried when they finally came home, kissed the ground, and thanked God they were free.

We're a melting pot. And our body and spirit have never been stronger or richer, thanks to hundreds of thousands of new heroes -- the brave men, women, and children who risked death to escape their communist prisons in Asia and Cuba. They arrived less than 10 years ago. Most were not able to speak a word of English. But with their courage and faith, they brought unbounded determination to work, produce, succeed, and excel. Now, more and more of them are becoming leaders in their communities -- small businessowners, hard-working taxpayers, even valedictorians in their high school graduating class. We can be proud and thankful that they're joining us today in parades and ballgames and backyard barbecues as young members of an old family.

We can salute the heroes of our technological age, like the four-man, one-woman crew of the Challenger. They dazzled America and the world with another perfect mission into the new frontier of space.

And how can we ignore the countless other examples of courage and love of neighbor from everyday Americans -- people like that grandmother in New York who collared a robber and gave him the back of her hand until the police arrived; people all across the country who've been battling angry spring floods and rising rivers so they could save the property and maybe the lives of their families and friends.

Don't let anyone tell us that America's best days are behind her, that the American spirit has been lost. I've never felt stronger than I do now that our people are coming together and that America is moving forward again. I've never been more convinced that fundamental problems of the economy, education, and national defense -- neglected for too many years -- are now being addressed and can be solved.

They will be solved if we believe in each other and in those values that make us a great and loving people. Think about it. We work and educate for freedom, for service of the ideal of liberty, not for subservience to the state.

Our notion of education is the most revolutionary idea conceived by mankind. When our scholars and teachers learn something new, they can't wait to teach it to our children. But in a totalitarian country, you're not allowed to read books or discuss ideas that aren't approved by censors. You're not allowed to have a computer in your home, because you might obtain information or knowledge that would make you a threat to the state.

Let us remember this July 4th that America's Revolution remains unique because it's changed the very concept of government. We are the Nation which proudly announced to the world: We are conceived in liberty. Each of us is created equal, with God-given rights, and power ultimately resides in ``We the people.''

We, the people, have only begun to write a great story that will be passed down through time -- the story of America. I'm reminded of a verse I once read about Old Glory. The Red, White, and Blue is a testament to the unity and patriotism of our people and to the deep love and commitment we have for our country, our freedom, and our way of life. The verse was written as if the flag was speaking to us, now and for generations to come.

It said:

I am whatever you make me, nothing more.

I am your belief in yourself, your dream of what a people may become.

I am a day's work of the weakest man and the largest dream of the most daring.

I am the clutch of an idea and the reasoned purpose of resolution.

I am no more than you believe me to be and I am all that you believe I can be.

I am whatever you make me, nothing more.

Happy Fourth of July, and may God bless America.

Note: The President's remarks were taped on June 27 at the White House.