The Fourth of July is always filled with family-fun, friends and fireworks.
But the importance of the holiday and meaning behind the celebrations has lasted for more than 200 years. The democratic principles that founded the United States have both inspired generations of Americans while at the same time prompted debate and conversation about what it actually means to be free.
“To be an American is the greatest thing in the world,” Gerold Cox, 30, of Springfield said. “I’ve fought for our freedoms. I’ve seen how different it is when traveling the world, etc. Some countries you can’t smoke a cigarette or play video games. It’s the greatest thing in the world – fighting for it, being here, seeing the country strive the way it is, it’s hard to describe but it’s a great feeling.”
The Springfield News-Sun spoke with residents walking throughout downtown Springfield and they shared their thoughts about the meaning of freedom and what it means to be an American today. Everyone had a slightly different take on what it means to be free, but they all agreed that freedom is being able to control your own destiny.
“Freedom means having the chance to do whatever makes you happy,” Andrew Gray, 25, of Springfield, said. “To be an American means pursuing our dreams and helping our neighbors pursue theirs.”
Jessica Deluca, 24, of Springfield, said she thinks of speech when she hears freedom.
“Freedom means just being able to have your own voice and opinion, choice, saying your values but respecting other people’s values,” she said.
She said being an American means “to love your neighbors, to love everyone in every community no matter their sexual orientation, race, or gender, equally.”
Richard Hood, 40, of Springfield, said not having anyone mandate what you do with your life is freedom.
“Freedom to me is being able to do pretty much whatever you want once it’s within the guidelines of the law,” he said. “You can come here and practice whatever religion if you want, and no one can do anything about,” he said. “To be an American is standing up for what you believe in, always speaking your mind, defending all who needs defending – the American way”
Cox, who served in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010, said being free is about enjoying what you have and knowing no one can legally take it away from you.
“There’s a lot of people that actually died for us,” he said. “Being able to do whatever you want without governmental control is a blessing. You don’t have anyone to boss you around”