5:31 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Chaplain, thank you for getting this started. And, you know, we had wished for good weather. You’re probably all going, “I wish it was cooler right now.” (Laughter.)
But thank you all for being here.
Good evening, my fellow Americans. Today we mark the 246th anniversary for independence as a nation, and recommit — recommit ourselves to the great experiment of America.
And while the events of 1776 were remote in time, their meaning is real, vivid, and continually unfolding.
Don’t worry, we got babies at home. (Laughter.) It’s okay — children are allowed to cry.
For America is always becoming, always on the move, always a work in progress. That’s the key word, a key idea, a keynote in the life of our nation: progress, forward motion, the creation of possibilities, the fulfillment of promises. That’s the American story.
And you all know well — it’s not a simple one. It never has been. It’s often been the case that after we’ve taken giant steps forward, we’ve taken a few steps backwards.
And after doing the hard work of laying the foundation for a better future, the worst of our past has reached out and pulled us back on occasion. But I know this: that from the deepest depths of our worst crises, we’ve always risen to our higher heights. We’ve always come out better than we went in.
We’ve been tested before, just as we’re being tested today. But we’ve never failed because we have never walked away from the core beliefs and promises that define this nation. Chief among those promises is the proposition that we are all created equal. We say that so often, from the time you’re a kid in school, that sometimes we wonder sometimes whether it’s just rhetoric, but that — we’re an idea. The only country based on an idea — not geography, not religion, not ethnicity, but an idea. We’re all created equal.
The laws are instituted among people to protect the vulnerable, to check those with power, and to guarantee the pursuit of justice. And to realize these promises requires a principled patriotism, a patriotism that recognizes that no person, no party, no interest can take precedent over the American project — a project that has come up short in many ways but which continues even in this hour; a project that says we’re all in this together, and the ambitions of a few cannot be allowed to prevail over the aspirations of the many.
That’s how I see America on July the Fourth, as big and a big-hearted a place where we debate and disagree, yet where we’re united by a love of country. This — and as has been before in our history in times of war and division, of growth and change, the Fourth of July comes at a critical moment.
Our economy is growing but not without pain. Liberty is under assault — assault both here and abroad. In recent days, there’s been reason to think that this country is moving backward, that freedom is being reduced, that rights we assumed were protected are no longer. A reminder that we remain in an ongoing battle for the soul of America, as we have for over 200 years.
I know it can be exhausting and unsettling. But tonight, I want you to know we’re going to get through all of this — for all that we have faced, that we are going to get through this, and look how far we’ve come.
We’re reclaiming our way of life in a pandemic. Vaccines are nearly available to every American, restrictions lifted, the Fourth of July together again at the White House.
And for all the challenges, America has the strongest economy in the world. More people are working and starting businesses, more young people graduating from high school and college than ever before.
I just returned from an important trip — the military will understand — to Europe, to the NATO meeting. We’re relying on what we can do to rally the free world to defend freedom.
Before I left for Europe, I signed a law — the first real gun safety law in 30 years. (Applause.) And things will get better still, but not without more hard work together.
You all heard what happened. You all heard what happened today. But each day, we’re reminded there’s nothing guaranteed about our democracy, nothing guaranteed about our way of life. We have to fight for it, defend it, and earn it by voting to refine, evolve, and extend the calling — (applause) — of America to move forward boldly and unafraid.
And this day reminds us of what brought us together long ago, what binds us still, and at our best, what we strive for. It’s “We the people.” Not a hollow phrase in America. “We the people” doing all we can to ensure that the idea of America and the cause of freedom and justice and equality does more than survive the divisions of our time, but that it shines like the sun to light up the future of our world.
I know — I know we can do this. I know many Americans look around today and see a divided country and are deeply worried about that fact. I understand. But I believe we’re more united than we are divided.
Even more, I believe it’s a choice we make. And I believe it’s within our power to choose unity and unity of purpose.
As I look out tonight, here at the White House, I see so many military families who understand the essential American truth. It’s a greatest honor to serve as your Commander-in-Chief. And Jill and I are humbled to be with you tonight.
Tomorrow, we’ll be bestowing the Medal of Honor, the highest military award, to heroic service members who represent the best of America, the backbone, the sinew, the spine of America.
And on Tues- — on Thursday, I’ll bestow the Presidential Ma- — Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award, to extraordinary Americans who embody and endure — the enduring character of this nation.
All of them, all of you are reminders that we’re a great nation because we’re a good people.
It’s because of you I’ve never been more optimistic about America than I am today. An optimism that digs deep and never gives up — that’s America. That’s America.
So on this day, amid the storm and strife, may we commit ourselves to a principled patriotism for the large and complex mission to protect and make a — more perfect our union, make real the declaration of our independence, and ensure that America is forever a place not marked by the thirst for power at any cost, but by a covenant of trust and hope and promise.
Happy Fourth of July, America. May God bless America, and may God protect our troops. Enjoy the day. (Applause.) Enjoy it. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thanks. (Applause.)
5:40 P.M. EDT