Throughout this past weekend, the citizens of this great United States of America have celebrated the Fourth of July. The birthday of our nation commenced with the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776; and again this year, that history-making and world-shaping event has been commemorated. Parades and picnics have been enjoyed by people of every age. Fireworks have filled the sky; and flags have been unfurled on city streets, over municipal buildings, and on polls in front of the average man’s house.
I love the sight and sound of the fireworks. I like to be close enough to the display that the boom of the explosion reverberates in my chest. Bottle rockets glaring, bombs bursting in the air, and sparkling lights gallantly streaming through the night sky. What a spectacular sight! But the sight that unfailingly stirs my heart and captures my awe is that of the flag waving in this land of the free and the brave.
Our national anthem was written in honor of the flag. The third and less-familiar verse to the “Star Spangled Banner” contains the following lyrics:
"O thus be it ever when free men shall stand,
Between their loved home and the war's desolation;
Blest with victory and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land,
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just;
And this be our motto IN GOD IS OUR TRUST!
And the Star Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
Over the land of the free and the home of the brave!"
This fourth verse of the National Anthem inspired Congress on March 3, 1865, to place our nation’s motto on our nation's coins. History records that the last act of Congress, which President Lincoln signed, was one requiring that the motto IN GOD WE TRUST should be inscribed upon all our national coins.
On October 30, 1949, President Truman stated, "When the U.S. was established...the motto was IN GOD WE TRUST. That is still our motto and we still place our firm trust in God." Those same sentiments were reiterated by President John F. Kennedy on February 9, 1961, when he declared, "The guiding principle of this nation has been, is now, and ever shall be IN GOD WE TRUST." On March 19, 1981, President Ronald Reagan resounded the same sentiments when he said, "Our Nation's motto...reflects a basic recognition that there is a divine authority in the universe to which this nation owes homage."
From our flag, to our currency, to our celebration of the 4th, we are a nation that has historically acknowledged our faith and trust in God. John Adams, upon the vote of the Continental Congress to accept the resolution for independence, wrote to his wife the following words about our Independence Day:
“It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to
God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever…”
Our Fourth of July celebrations have fulfilled the pageantry and party described by Adams. However, to fully commemorate, we must remain devoted to God. In keeping with the words of our nation’s greatest leaders, IN GOD WE TRUST must continue to be the motto of our nation’s independence.