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Fourth of July

by the Rev. Bob Olsen

My article’s tend to stay away from secular topics, but a few weeks ago when going through our books, many I haven’t opened since shortly after purchasing and reading them 20-30-40-50 years ago. I ran across a small volume containing a Fourth of July Oration. Given the current state of politics I thought the speaker’s words still hold a message for us today.  As Sandy would not appreciate a 10-12 page article, I will only quote excerpts from the text.

independence day“Mr. Mayor, Fellow-citizens: We meet to-day on the common ground of American citizenship.  In the celebration of the national anniversary we forget all sectional divisions, all diversities of political opinion, all prejudices of race or creed. We remember only our common sympathies and interests in the present, our common homes and desires for the future. It is no time for the expression of narrow views, cynical criticism, or gloomy prognostications…We are reminded by recent public utterances that some of our fellow-citizens, of eminent virtues and not wanting in patriotism, seem to find our times hopelessly out of joint. They read in every passing event the signs of apprehension for the future…I believe that we may look at the present and the future with tranquil eyes. Our government is not going to destruction; our institutions are not falling into decay. There are some evils which affect all society and all government, and from these we cannot hope to be exempt…which call for attention and remedy…The stream will not always run clear, but its source in the heart and conscience of the people will not be corrupted…The people can be trusted…Let us, then, look forward with hope and confidence, trusting in the God-fearing, law-abiding character of the American people, “rich in saving common-sense,” grounded in love of justice and order, and vital with public spirit, to keep secure the great trust committed to their hands.”

This speech/Oration was given by the Hon. Albert E. Pillsbury, in the city of Boston on July 4, 1890. No that isn’t a typo – 1890. The style of oratory may have given away the era, but I believe the message to the folks in 1890 could serve us as well today. The decade leading up to this speech was part of what is referred to as the “gilded age.” This was a time of rapid industrialization and increasing wages, however as the book by Mark Twain The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, portrayed it as an era of serious social problems covered with a thin gold gilding of economic expansion.

What Mr. Pillsbury said about remembering only our common interests and desires for the future, rather than those who speak to divide us one from another. It seems clear to me that our country has had its problems, just as it was in 1890, we are called to work together for the good of all.

During this month when we celebrate the anniversary of the founding of our nation on the 4th of July, I ask you to prayer for the United States of America, the President, the Supreme Court and the Congress.

God Bless America.

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