July 4 is the most sacred date on the American civic calendar. This year marks the 246th time Americans have celebrated the monumental achievement of founding a nation that, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, was “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
But the celebration comes with hard truths of history. The Fourth reminds us of Americans’ struggle, as the Constitution puts it, to “form a more perfect union.” The stain of human bondage sparked the Civil War. The suffragettes of the 19th and early 20th centuries fought for the right to vote. Japanese-Americans during World War II were forced into internment camps. And men such as Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King Jr. paid with their lives to attain equality long denied to African-Americans. When we consider our past, sober reflection should accompany joyful celebration.