CHAMPION STRATEGIES – PUBLIC SPEEKING WORKSHOPS – JULY 1, 2021 -1
To celebrate this national holiday and reflect on the words given by many great leaders in American History, we’ve compiled a list of several meaningful Fourth of July speech transcripts.
There’s more on our minds, this Fourth of July, than fireworks and cookouts.
In light of more social distancing measures being enacted nationwide, our gatherings this year bear the brunt of isolation. With ongoing protests and civil unrest, this national holiday — one so often steeped in engagement and community — stands to be one of quiet contemplation.
The day we celebrate our nation’s independence is a complicated one. And, not everyone observes the day in the same way. Cities may light up the night skies in remembrance of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but we must also acknowledge the work that started well afterward and continues to this day to ensure that there is truly liberty and justice for all.
And, many of the leaders in American history have recognized the hard road ahead to creating a better future for every citizen. Many wars have been fought, and many brave men and women have lost their lives defending this great country. All the while, those at home have fought and continue to fight for equality, freedom, and their own pursuit of happiness.
So, whether you’re going to host a virtual watch party for the new Hamilton musical, go all-out with a backyard cookout (replete with plenty of masks and hand sanitizer), or just spend quality time with your family, take a moment to meditate on the words spoken by some of our nation’s greatest leaders in these famous July 4th speeches.
Generations ago, America’s leading political figures delivered many of their most eloquent orations not in the chambers of the Capitol but from local gazebos and bandstands on Independence Day. Before large crowds on town greens or in front of fire halls, they would harken back to the lessons of the nation’s Founders, often holding their audiences spellbound for an hour, perhaps even more.
American presidents still deliver pro-forma July Fourth messages; last year President Trump, in a remarkable personal version of history and the capabilities of George Washington’s Revolutionary War forces, said that “our Army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports.”
But the grand tradition of the Independence Day oration has largely disappeared. Today’s audiences are unaccustomed to the patriotic rhetoric that once commanded attention. Indeed, the standard themes of July Fourths past — paeans to the wisdom of Washington, suggestions that his Revolutionary comrades were soldiers in God’s own cause — now possess an antiquarian, almost alien air.
“A politician’s Fourth of July speech may seem anodyne and clichéd,” said Rutgers historian David Greenberg. “But it also contributes in some way to understanding and perhaps subtly redefining, in that moment and from that political perspective, what Americanism is or should be.”
And there are lessons in these orations of a long-ago age. They are period pieces, and yet they underline in the 21st century how the 18th century Enlightenment values embedded in the Declaration of Independence have not been redeemed or realized.
“If democracy is America’s civic religion, then its sacred text is the Declaration of Independence,” said Martin Kaplan, a USC expert on media and society. “What better occasion for a secular sermon about our founding values than the anniversary of our birth certificate? The first time many Americans heard their unalienable rights proclaimed was with their own ears, listening to its text. In a way, every Fourth of July speech since then has been a reenactment of that first declaration, renewed and recommitted in the terms of its changing times.”