Thursday, June 29, 2017

We Hold These Truths!

This coming Tuesday, July 4th, Americans celebrate Independence Day. At the annual picnic at the Ananda Community in Lynnwood, we will have a 45 minute tribute to the principles upon which America was founded. It occurs to us that a re-affirmation of these principles is timely given today's fractious political climate. 

We have quotations from the lives of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Abraham Lincoln. In our program this Tuesday, we've combined the readings with music. To anyone who would like our script, please contact me.

Here then are some excerpts:

George Washington: (first inaugural address)

"it would be improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe...that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States.....No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which we have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency."

In a letter to the Jewish community of Rhode Island assuring them of their freedom to practice their faith, President George Washington wrote....."For happily the Government of the United States, which gives bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support."

In a letter (he was a prodigious letter writer, though not an author of books): "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness......And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion....Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education......reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

Thomas Jefferson: in describing his intent upon writing the Declaration of Independence, he wrote that the object was "not to find out new principles or new arguments, ... , but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent....neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from copied from any previous writing..."

From the Declaration of Independence:

"....We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.......governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed...."

Never in history before this declaration had there been a government instituted on the consent of the governed.

John Adams: 

"Religion and virtue are the only foundations, not of republicanism and of all free government, but of social felicity under all government and in all the combinations of human society. They may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty.

The government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian religion. But to be a Christian is to be joyful, and we are a government founded on Christian principles.

This is my religion … joy and exaltation in my own existence.

It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished."

Abraham Lincoln: taken from speeches given as he entrained from Springfield to Washington D.C. to take the oath of office (1861):

"To-day I leave you. I go to assume a task more difficult than that which devolved upon [George] Washington. Unless the great God who assisted him shall be with and aid me I must fail; but if the same omniscient mind and mighty arm that directed and protected him shall guide and support me I shall not fail -- I shall succeed. Let us all pray that the God of our fathers may not forsake us now. To Him I commend you all. Permit me to ask that with equal sincerity and faith you will invoke His wisdom and guidance for me."

I can say that all the political sentiments I entertain have been drawn, so far as I have been able to draw them, from the sentiments which originated and were ….. embodied in the Declaration of Independence. I have often pondered over the dangers which were incurred by the men who assembled, framed and adopted that Declaration of Independence. I have pondered over the toils that were endured by the officers and soldiers of the army who achieved that Independence. I have often inquired of myself, what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so long together? 

It was not the mere matter of the separation of the Colonies from the motherland; [it was] but that sentiment in the Declaration of Independence which gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but, I hope, to the world, for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weight would be lifted from the shoulders of all men. 

This is a sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence. Now, my friends, can this country be saved upon that basis? If it can, I will consider myself one of the happiest men in the world, if I can help to save it. If it cannot be saved upon that principle, it will be truly awful. But if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle, I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it."

May we celebrate the search for freedom in all its forms, leading at last to freedom in God!

Swami Hrimananda