“The struggle for freedom continues today in nations whose people are not free and within free nations where the few do not share the opportunity of the many. It no longer needs to be fought with cutlass and cannon. But the combat and the conquest require the same courage, the same intellect, the same commitment, the same inspiration.”
Our Quote of the Week connects past and present with its message that the struggle for freedom continues as fervently today as it did during revolutionary times. It reminds us that we will not truly be free until we are all free.
Sargent Shriver was US Ambassador to France when he spoke these words at the tomb of the Marquis de Lafayette 54 years ago this month in Paris, France. At the time, Shriver was marking the Fourth of July and honoring Lafayette, the French military officer who joined the Continental Army and helped then-General George Washington win the American Revolutionary War. (Later, Lafayette would return to France to take part in the French Revolution.)
In his address, Shriver makes a point that some still deny today: that while the promises of liberty and self-determination were articulated in our founding documents, in reality the only people for whom this promise was meant, were the White, land-owning men of the colonies. This left everyone else with few or no freedoms, even as our population grew and became more diverse.
Sargent Shriver emphasizes that the struggle for independence is global, “in nations whose people are not free and within free nations where the few do not share the opportunity of the many.” In this sense, even if we were to achieve freedom and independence for all of us at home, we will never be truly free until all people, everywhere are free.
In the United States, our struggle for freedom has continued since 1776, and goes on today. While we have seen undeniable human- and civil-rights victories throughout our history, from Lincoln’s abolition of slavery, to Johnson’s passing of landmark civil-rights laws, to the Supreme Court’s securing of the right for same-sex couples to marry, we have also had setbacks that have limited the freedoms of some. In the past 10 years, we’ve seen Supreme Court decisions that have limited citizens’ rights, including Shelby County v. Holder, which overturned a part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which ruled that the right to an abortion is not protected by the Constitution. Decisions such as these are a reminder that to ensure our collective freedom, we must stay engaged in the democratic process and ensure that all of our citizens can participate, as well. As Sargent Shriver reminds us, the struggle for freedom is not easy, and it requires courage, intellect, commitment, and inspiration.