Yesterday my brother and I took our families (six kids in all) into Philadelphia to see Independence Hall–easily the most historic building in America, birthplace of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution–and the Liberty Bell. Because of reported threats against the bell by terrorists, security in the area is rather tight. We had to go through airport-type screening to get into the historic area, which took a half-hour or more.
It is no surprise, I guess, that patriotism is not only alive but resurgent, but still I was struck by the patience with which visitors waited through security, the rapt attention with which our tour group absorbed every scrap of information about Independence Hall, and the awe with which the tourists viewed the Liberty Bell. “Cool…inspiring,” was my 13-year-old daughter’s verdict.
Many people do not realize that the Liberty Bell has not always been a famous symbol; until the 1840’s it was little known outside Philadelphia. At that time an Abolitionist group, touring Independence Hall (then the Pennsylvania Statehouse), was struck by the bell’s inscription: “Proclaim Liberty throughout All the land unto All the Inhabitants Thereof.” The universality of the message appealed to the Abolitionists, who adopted it as a symbol of their movement and popularized the bell world-wide. Now the bell is viewed by more than a million people every year.
The bell’s message continues to resonate today, of course. I recall that during the 1980’s, when Ronald Reagan would hear of someone calling for change, he would sometimes respond: “We are the change.” Once again we have an Administration that understands that we are the bearers of the most radical political message in the history of the human race, the only real alternative to our planet’s sorry tale of exploitation and abuse: Liberty for all of the inhabitants of the earth. No wonder the terrorists wanted to blow up the Liberty Bell. Its message will be their undoing.
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill