First let me say how very honored I feel to he asked to speak to you today on freedom.
A word of explanation about me. I was horn in England a long lime ago. I was educated there. I moved to the United States in 1959 and I became a citizen in 1964.
I find-freedom is very hard to define. It is a bit like love. Either you experience it or you don't.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt did his best to define freedom on the national level when he said there were four levels of freedom: "Freedom of speech and expression; freedom of religion; freedom from want; and freedom from fear."
But there are too many people in the world who are not protected by these freedoms. I think if you are horn into poverty and never have enough to cat, then it must be hard to ever feel free.
If a child is born unwanted and is not properly nurtured or is abused and denied love, then I don't think it is possible to experience freedom. The number of report- ed cases of child abuse and neglect boggles the mind.
Last year here in Garrett County the Dove Center assisted and counseled 577 women who were in domestic violence situations and 191 who were sexually abused. These are horrible figures. How can these women possibly be free? The only way they could achieve freedom would be to get out of their abusive marriage or relationships. And I don't suppose the abuser felt very free either.
If a person lives under a repressive dictatorship or religion which does not permit personal freedom it will not be possible to experience freedom as we know it. I find that courage and the need for freedom go hand in hand.
During the oppressive reign of the Nazis in Germany and the countries they conquered, very courageous people performed various acts of sabotage. People did these acts knowing that if they were discovered they would be arrested, tortured, and possibly murdered. But their need to he free was so strong they were prepared to lose their lives.
Here in the United States the need to he free has been a strong part of the national character.
The Revolutionary War was the beginning of the national desire to be free, but the need to be free went back a long time before then. The early settlers came here Seeking religious and political freedom.
The terrible Civil War was fought for freedom - to free the slaves, and also to live the way of life preferred by both sides in the conflict.
The participation by the Americans in both World Wars was in the name of freedom. Although so many miles from home, American soldiers, sailors, and airmen fought very bravely on the European continent and in the Pacific. That the Americans, together with their allies, were successful in their fight against tyranny and oppression is, I think, [attributable to] their understanding of freedom. . Individual freedom has played a big part in the development of this country. I think of men and women who came to this country, then suffered tremendous hardships as they went west.
I think of the Founding Fathers who at the risk of their lives sought the freedom to establish their own country.
I think of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Susan B. Anthony - Victorian ladies who were supposed to be seen, but not heard. These three women were joined by many others as they worked all their adult lives for the rights of women and their right to vote.
I think of the courage of early writers like Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin and brought before the public the cruelties of slavery.
I think of the bravery of a woman like Margaret Sanger, a nurse and advocate for women. She opened a clinic in New York City to give contraceptive advice to women burdened with too many children.
I think of early teachers who encouraged girls to attend their schools. I think of the young women who took advantage to the education offered. These women became teachers, nurses, business women, lawyers, and doctors, and ,eventually entered politics. Women have been very successful in these fields, although we are still waiting for our first woman president.
British women had the hard-won right to vote before American women. During the First World War there was a serious shortage of workers because so many men were in the Army. Ale government wanted women to enter the workforce - to which the women replied, "Give us the right to vote and we will work very hard for the war effort." Men were appalled by this attitude, but the demand for workers was so great that the government gave in. British women were able to vote in 1917. American women had to wait until 1920.
Many rights have been extended to women, but we are still not paid as much as men for doing the same work.
I grew up learning British history. We learned of the battles for freedom between barons and kings. We learned how King John in 1251 was forced to sign Magna Carta. How Parliament was formed in the late 1200s. Neither of these events helped the common man very much. They mostly helped the barons and bishops in their fights with the kings. Over the next 700 years, freedom and democracy slowly evolved. A fair-minded judicial system was established. Fair income tax, schools, libraries, and medical services became part of our way of life. It took many centuries before men and women were given full voting rights.
I don't ever recall hearing anybody talking about freedom when I was young. We just look it for granted. But in 1940 the Germans conquered all of Europe, including France. After the rescue of the British Army from Dunkirk on the coast of France, we found ourselves alone facing a very large successful German Army. We knew that the Germans planned to invade us. Suddenly our freedoms became very precious to us. First the Germans had to prepare for the invasion by bombing us. Their Air Force was large with well-trained pilots, but we had the Royal Air Force. The battle of Britain successfully kept our freedom.
What followed were terrible air raids resulting in the total destruction of towns and cities and the loss of thousands and thou- sands of lives. But the more we were bombed the greater was our stubborn refusal to be defeated - We knew we had to remain free. I think it was the founding of this country on freedom which promoted the need for freedom in other countries.
Today in these United States we are free to express ourselves to marry the person of our choice. We are free to choose the church we wish to attend. We are free to choose the books or newspapers we wish to read. Our elections are free. We can choose the candidates we wish to vote for.
We have the freedom to live in a democratic country - But never forget that democracy is very fragile. It needs the help and support of' us all. The way to achieve this is to read and study and debate the issues, and then vote on them. Men and women have been coming to this country seeking freedom from repression for many, many years. Our freedoms are precious to us. We have to guard them with courage and determination. We have to teach our children the meanings of these freedoms and of the sacrifices of some who ensured that freedom would survive for most of us.