Today, By the Company It Keeps takes a breather for America’s holiday.
But what better way to head into this long weekend than with a dose of inspiration drawn from two of the most famous Fourth of July speeches in our nation’s history.
In 1852, leading abolitionist, former slave, and famed orator Frederick Douglass was invited to publicly celebrate Independence Day in front of a swollen Rochester crowd. But he was in no mood to rejoice, delivering as scathing a presentation as you could fathom in front of an audience prepared, instead, for national hosannas.
In 1986, Ronald Reagan used the moving story of the reconciliation of two presidential predecessors to remind the nation’s citizens that what united them was far greater than what pulled them apart.
At first blush, the sounds of these two speeches couldn’t be more dissonant. Their words seem to reflect entirely different histories, entirely different principles. But on our nation’s birthday, we can see that they are of one piece: We have had, and we will continue to have, enormous challenges to overcome—but unlike any nation before, we did, and we will.
As Americans, we are so very fortunate to have kept the company of those who founded this nation and for those who have sought to preserve and perfect it ever since.
Frederick Douglass, 1852
...Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today?...