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Tuesday
Jun192012

Remember Freedom and the Leadership on Juneteenth

In commemoration of Juneteenth, Project 21 member Lisa Fritsch writes about the need to remember the past in order to save the future:

Juneteenth has always been a celebration of freedom.  Today, however, it must also be a celebration of leadership.

When President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, he displayed courageous leadership in freeing American slaves and restoring true liberty for all in America.  While the nation was bitterly divided over the issue of equality for all mankind, Lincoln set in motion the recognition that freedom was deemed only by our Creator and not by man.

Still, in Texas, it would take another two years and another courageous leader — Union General Gordon Granger — to bring this joyful news to Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865.  The anniversary of this day — and the celebrations related to it — became known as Juneteenth.

When I think about Juneteenth and what it stands for, I usually think about our nation’s past.  But, more and more, I think about our nation’s future.

I think back to my grandfather.  He emphasized Juneteenth over all other summer holidays.  I cannot forget the build-up to that day: a new jumper short for me for the park, buckets of lemons donated to make homemade lemonade and the seductive smell of the grill that called everyone to rejoice and reflect on the great gift of freedom and the price paid for it.  I remember that, as the brisket was nearly done, my grandfather would begin telling his stories about the emancipation of our people and the quest for true freedom through opportunity after that freedom was achieved.

In reflecting on that past, I lament on how little I do today to instill that same sense of festivity and pride in my own children when Juneteenth rolls around.  Perhaps I am too distanced from the pain of the past that fueled the energy and passion in my grandfather’s stories (that were surely passed down from my great-grandfather).  Therein lies the problem: Juneteenth cannot be the same as it has been without that conviction and reverence.  With each generation, unfortunately, I believe it is harder and harder to understand the significance of this special day.

Nevertheless, it is our duty to keep these old stories of struggle and opportunity alive so that future generations will remember the value of freedom and recognize threats to it.
These fading memories call on us to think of the future and our responsibility to protect freedom for future generations and show a sense of urgency for real leadership and bedrock values.  As Ronald Reagan so prophetically said: “We didn’t pass [freedom] on to our children in the bloodstream.”

We owe it to our children to share the stories of our past and let the truth be known about the values that are so important and which leaders have always been on the side of courage, truth and freedom.

History shows us that conservatives have always been on the side of freedom for all Americans.  It still holds true today.  When we talk to our children about why we are conservative, we can not only share our responsibilities for the future but flip back through the pages of history to spotlight the courageous leaders of our past who can still inspire us today. 

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