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Our Heritage of Freedom

Freedom is one of those words that can have more than one meaning, according to who is using it. It can simply mean the absence of coercion or the ease or facility of doing something. It can imply a positive good: a liberation from slavery, or a negative state: improper familiarity or speech.

But the freedom we celebrate on the 4th of July is an aspirational state, one that as a nation we strive for (often stumbling and failing along the way).

Franklin Roosevelt expressed our nation's aims at the start of World War II with a speech outlining the "four freedoms" that we were fighting for. Those freedoms are still goals to work towards:

Freedom of speech

Freedom of worship

Freedom from want

Freedom from fear

The headlines today show that we still have a way to go before we can fully celebrate those freedoms, but as Americans we have those standards to meet.

The men of the 1st American Regiment who served at Fort Steuben in 1786-87 didn't have the years of historical documents, analysis and criticism that we have today. Many of them were simple farmers or countrymen who had joined the army as a way to make a living in this new nation. What were their concepts of freedom? What are ours? And how can we work to bring those goals closer to reality?

Historic Fort Steuben exists to inform and challenge - to inform us of the struggles and ideas that created our nation, and to challenge us to continue the work of bringing "freedom and justice to all."

Happy 4th of July!

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