Discovering the True Meaning of Liberty
by: Dr. Marlene McMillan
“…with Liberty and justice for all.” Thus ends one of the most important texts in America, the Pledge of Allegiance. Most of us recited this text throughout our schooling, they are said at many public events, and all Congressional sessions are opened with its words. But do we as a people really know what these vital words mean?
Let’s focus on one of these words: Liberty. Today, many exchange this word with freedom, but what I want to show you is that Liberty goes much deeper, has much greater effects, and is much more powerful, important, and relevant than mere freedom.
Freedom is, at best, the license to do what you want as long as you do not hurt others. At worst, it is license to do what you want without considering the rights of others. Freedom exercised by the masses, without good character, will result in anarchy or tyranny. Freedom without responsibility is dangerous, costly, and ultimately restrictive on individuals and society. In terms of ability to act freely without consequences, Somalia, with little working internal government, is a ‘freer’ society than the United States. The ramifications of freedom without character are disorder, chaos, injustice, and poverty.
Societies with a small notion of Liberty are ultimately better off than societies based only on ideas of freedom. Liberty is the opportunity to make a choice to assume responsibility and accept the consequences. The fruit of liberty are order, justice, wisdom, and prosperity. When people’s actions are determined and tempered by the obligation to assume responsibility and accept the consequences (be they good or bad), those actions will ultimately work towards the advancement and progress of all, rather than the profit of one at the expense of many.
Liberty is not won easily, and is not preserved complacently. In fact, liberty is under assault everyday by those who make others pay for their actions. Today, do you see people accepting responsibility, or are they blaming somebody else? Are they – or you – looking for a bailout? Are they looking for someone else to take over and pay for their actions? Or did they step up to the plate and say, “I’m responsible, the buck stops here”?
The ideas that surround liberty are so life-changing, so profound, and so important that they affect everything you do. Your view of Liberty – or lack thereof – has already affected everything that has happened to you in your life.
Liberty is not just something that people in Washington should be concerned about, and it is not something that can be preserved by the hands of a few. Thomas Jefferson said, “Educate and inform the whole mass of people. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our Liberty.” Our founders and the first generation of Americans paid a steep price for our liberty. Many were imprisoned, persecuted, tortured, and killed for the cause of liberty. It honors their sacrifice to remember the cause of their strong spirit.
The preservation and sustainment of Liberty depends on you. It’s time to discover liberty or lose it.