Give Me Liberty

This morning while my wife worked, I went to visit Independence National Historical Park, home of Philly's most popular tourist attractions, the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Every American should have the privilege of visiting the place where our nation was born, and I felt awed by the great weight of history, standing in the very rooms where Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and the other founding fathers forged the documents that have guided our nation.

I went to see the Liberty Bell first. The most striking aspect is its utter imperfection. The crack is certainly its most recognizable aspect, but the reality is that the bell just was not very well forged. It is full of imperfections, flaws, and dents. That is the beauty of it. It reminds us that liberty is not perfect, that Americans have been striving for true liberty but have not yet found its perfect fulfillment. There are still millions of people enslaved worldwide (some within our borders). There are still many struggling for equality. Perhaps the most inspiring aspect of our visit here to Philadelphia is that all of the monuments to freedom here are also reminders of how far we have come as a country since the early days when only white men were free. They are also sobering reminders of how far we still have to go to establish universal freedom and equality.

After viewing the Liberty Bell, I walked across the street for my tour of Independence Hall. I was in the same group as a bunch of elementary school students, which really made the tour even more fun because they relished every opportunity to answer the guides questions, and as hard as she tried, she couldn't stump them. She explained to us the brief history of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, both of which were drafted and signed in Independence Hall (formerly the Pennsylvania State House). We toured the room where the documents were signed as well as the old Court Room, where the Declaration was first read publicly.

The tour was very inspiring. It is hard for us to imagine just how revolutionary the founding of America really was. Brilliant and extraordinary people debated ideas and initiated the principles that have now become hallmarks of democracy. Ideas like division of power and checks and balances originated here. These people founded something that had never been seen before, a nation based on the principles of freedom and equality, and though America was still in its infancy, still imperfect in the application of these principles, this event changed the history of the world. At the end of the tour, the school group recited the Preamble for us. It was a wonderful conclusion.

I also visited Washington Square, the burial ground of the unknown soldiers of the Revolution. A statue of General Washington stands guard over them, and an eternal flame burns in their honor. Now children play there, and people walk their dogs around the grounds. Perhaps one of the other most interesting things about Philly is that every block features some significant historical landmark mixed so seamlessly with modern American life. There is a dog park right next door to Christ Church, where Franklin and Washington worshiped. Businesspeople file past Independence Hall on their lunch breaks. People send mail from the post office Ben Franklin founded. The past and the present coexist effortlessly. That is probably my favorite thing about Philly.

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