Having escaped slavery in 1838 at age 21, and in view of the continued, horrific bondage of his people, Frederick Douglass said, “Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?”
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It was July Fourth 1857 and Latter-day Saints living in New York City, Connecticut and as far away as Boston gathered for a grand “clam bake” on a small islet in the Long Island Sound that had dubbed “Nauvoo Island.” The celebration, like so many others, would have faded into history had it not been for invitations extended to two journalists.
To add to 2020’s increasing strangeness, this year the Fourth of July promises to come not with a bang, but a whimper. The places to wave your flag and wear red, white and blue are limited and cut off. In fact, as many as 20 protests against the nation are planned for the Fourth. The celebration of freedom, however, that cannot be canceled or protested is the one that is in our spirit, in our spiritual DNA and the fight for it we have waged from before this world was.
It would take hundreds of years, a terrible Civil War, and a trying Civil Rights Movement before the blessings of self-government would be extended to the descendants of African slaves carried in bonds to America’s shores. Yet the history of that Providential deliverance and of the mending, at least partially, of America’s deepest racial wounds can inspire us today as we continue to grapple with the residual effects of such terribly racist legacies.
In support of a cause that was thoroughly unlikely to succeed, these patriots pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, and they chose an equally unlikely time to use a parchment to poke the King of Great Britain in the eye.
Business people everywhere are struggling to recover from disruptions and tensions caused by a perfect storm of pandemic and social unrest. For most, life will never be the same as it once was. That reality holds opportunity as well as risk. Now, perhaps more than ever, could be a good time to re-think how we think.