See more of the story

Reprinted from the July 4, 1942, edition of the Minneapolis Morning Tribune.

The Fourth of July was never made for the fainthearted. This is a day set aside for Americans who do not know the meaning of the word defeat, whose courage sees beyond the black reverses of the moment. The Fourth belongs to the tough-spirited. It belongs to those who have an unflinching faith in this nation’s destinies. It belongs not only to the free, but even more especially to the brave.

The faint of heart may unfurl the flag today, but they will not capture the spirit of the Fourth. They are too busy immersing themselves in despair, too intent on marking off the days to doom. Egypt, they say, is the beginning of the end. Russia is cracking, and the Middle East will soon be lost. Tobruk and Sevastopol are the portents of final disaster. The situation in the Far East is irreparable. The British are bunglers, they say; the Russians face impossible odds, the Americans cannot even protect their own coastal waters against the Nazi submarines.

How the men who signed the Declaration of Independence would have flung back the first timid suggestion of irresistible disaster! How they would have scorned to think their destiny of freedom was not to be fulfilled! Had they seen only what was immediately before them, had they refused to look beyond the bleak present and the immediately heavy odds, they also would have said the fight could not be won.

They had the vision, though, that saw far down the road. They had faith that freedom, for the American colonies, was a great inevitability. They were the sort of men who screwed their courage to the sticking place, and never countenanced the thought of failure.

Such vision and such faith have always seen us through dark days. They saw us through the gloom of Valley Forge, through the black years of civil strife imperiling the Union, through the Stygian summer of 1918 when the Kaiser’s armies were hammering mercilessly at the Allied line in France. There has never been a time of crisis when this nation failed to say: The odds are not too great. The way is not too hard. The time is not too late. The final victory will still be ours.

Nor has there been a time when we failed to reach the goal. The faith in our destiny has been justified, the vision of freedom fulfilled, the courage to see beyond the day’s bad news rewarded. There is more than mere happenstance to this, we think; there is a cause and effect relationship, by which the indomitable will of men to be free is ultimately manifested in the strength for victory.

The Nazi leaders who ordered the annihilation of Lidice have strength of a sort, but it is a tornadic madness on the loose. It is not strength sustained by these eternal truths: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

To the Founding Fathers, these truths were self-evident. To them, it was plain that governments should derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.” To them it was sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, and they did not shrink from taking risks, or doubt the final survival of the principles to which they cleaved.

We need more of their faith today, the faith that in this people’s war, the people’s right to liberty will be established. We need more of their vision, the vision which extends beyond the Tobruks to the sure turning of the tide of victory. Finally, we need their valor in adversity. “Courage is the thing. All goes if courage goes.” The Fourth was made for the brave of heart, and for the free of spirit. The faint and despairing have no understanding of it.