"Freedom is not free". That was the theme of my speech on graduation day many years ago, sharing the podium with three other class mates, who also spoke on that subject.
We all talked about the lofty meaning of freedom. And we shared our feelings about the responsibilities that come along with that freedom.
But on a day like today, July 4th, when we celebrate the United States of America's birthday and our freedom from being ruled by anyone but ourselves, we have to remember just how much of a price has been paid for this sacred independence.
We have to remember the wars, and the battles and the conflicts. We must remember those that have served this country, especially the men and women who have given that ultimate sacrifice.
We must also pray every day for those soldiers who are defending our freedom even today throughout the world. They are the reason that we celebrate another independence day.
For many of us, there will be picnics, and barbecues and fireworks. For others, those that ensure our freedom, there will be drills, and missions and marches.
Today there will be a NASCAR race, the Coke Zero 400. The race will run under the lights at Daytona International Speedway, the epicenter of superspeedway racing.
The best 43 NASCAR drivers and their hundreds of thousands of fans will take to the track this evening. They will draft, and beat and bang each other, hopefully avoiding the "big one", a hallmark of the Daytona track.
But the most important part of the race today will not be the cars on the track. I would argue the most important part of the race today will be the pre-race ceremonies honoring America, our freedom and the military that serves us all so well.
NASCAR has a proud tradition of patriotism. Fans may scream and yell at drivers they like or do not like during driver introductions, but everyone is respectful during the presentation of the colors and the national anthem.
Caps are off and hands are over hearts as the anthem is sung and the flyover of military aircraft streaks across the skies. Almost every pre-race prayer offers thanks and support for men and women in uniform serving our nation.
Service personnel often attend NASCAR races, with some of the branches of the military even sponsoring race cars and teams. In the photo accompanying this article, members of the National Guard stand proudly outside the garage of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of their car.
So, today, NASCAR fans will hopefully enjoy a good, safe race. But all of us as fans should remember that our freedom to watch our chosen sport is not free.
In fact we are not free at all, but for the sacrifice of our founding fathers and so many who have had the courage to fight for our independence, in the past and even right this very minute.
In the courageous words of our Declaration of Independence that is responsible for this day:
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. 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.
Freedom is not free. It is our responsibility.
Happy July 4th to all.
Photo Credit: Mary Jo Buchanan, Pocono Raceway