JULY 5, 1954
HYDE PARK, Sunday—We are all very fortunate that the Fourth of July falls this year on a Sunday, since it gives us an extra holiday on Monday—a long weekend which families can enjoy together. One of the objectives which lay back of the Declaration of Independence—which we commemorate on the Fourth—was to obtain for families the kind of rights and privileges which make it possible to enjoy a holiday.
There are areas of the world where holidays might mean only a stopping of toil, and there might even be some doubt as to whether this stoppage was a blessing or not, since earnings are so close to bare subsistence that to stop work for a day might mean hunger for the individual and his family. To be able to enjoy a holiday is a part of what we view as the American way of life, and it lies back of the concept that most of us have when we speak of freedom from want. That a worker should earn a living wage and that it should be adequate to permit some recreation, as well as the bare necessities of life, is one of our highest aspirations.
Our concept of what life for the average citizen should be has broadened and deepened since Thomas Jefferson and his colleagues wrote the Declaration of Independence, and the principles back of that Declaration are still very much alive in the minds and consciousness of the people of the United States. We still strive for the right of all our citizens to live under a just system of law, and we claim individual freedom for all in the areas of thought and speech and assembly and in the worship of God. We believe in freedom for ourselves and for our neighbors.
As we look back over the years of our development, we realize that there were times in our history when our dream was nearly lost. A few people acquired great economic strength, and they thought that the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights applied only to a few and not to all the citizens of the United States.
Always, however, when this concept takes hold of a few people, the great majority of our people rescue the original dream. And we find ourselves again trying to adhere in the broadest possible way to the concept which brought so many fine people to our shores in our early days and which still keeps us striving to attain for all the citizens of our nation the well-being envisioned by the founders of America.
A nation like ours needs to remind itself on every Fourth of July that the great documents that guided us in the past belong to us all; and therefore all of us must fight to see that the ideas and aspirations voiced in those documents become year by year a greater reality for all the people of our nation.