February 1st, 2024, is National Freedom Day. The date is not significant simply because of its illustrious title of freedom, a revered principle in this great nation, but because of the commemoration of the neverending struggle of liberty for all. On February 1st, 1865, led by Pennsylvania Representative Thaddeus Stevens, the House of Representatives passed, by a vote of 119 to 56, the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The amendment postulates that:
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
In layman’s terms, this states that slavery is effectively illegal inside of the territory of the U.S. or anywhere within its authority. It created a new sense of unity in this nation, although there was still an uphill battle to be fought. Still, the landmark decision to change for the good cemented the U.S. as a nation willing to do what is just, moral, and operate on the side of the Right. National Freedom Day has become a beacon of what America stands for. Our fathers set us on a trajectory–a destiny–for prestige and power used for the greater good of humanity.
Obviously, I must have a personal connection to this concept of “freedom”. The revered principle of personal liberties is a concept which has unmatched importance. In my journey of life I have found that there is no greater gift, given by the sacrifice of millions throughout our nation’s history, than the right to be fairly represented, treated, and judged. In this nation, and every such nation dedicated to preserving the rights and legal guarantees for all who inhabit them, should be a nation venerated and exemplified on the world stage. My individual connection with egalitarian principles and democratic engagement stems back to my early days of middle school. As you all know, the year 2020 was a turbulent period in not just American, but world history. As I saw even the adults in my life plagued by uncertainty, questioning the future of our planet, I knew that if such an event would happen again, there needed to be someone who could stand up and advocate for the true founding ideals of America. As the year progressed, and the unrest became ever apparent, violence and injustice became the only solution for some. That was a particularly haunting premise for me. Was this nation not founded on liberty and justice for all? Ever since I asked myself that question, I have dedicated my life, studies, and efforts to the furthered sustainability of freedom in the hearts of anyone willing to work towards its survival. We have come a long way since the days of the cataclysmic divide of this country in 1861. However, we must steel ourselves, and rededicate ourselves to the proposition that as long as free men live, not a man shall be a slave.
The new generation–this generation–must find what it means to live without fear. We must learn to revere the rights and privileges that we are endowed with from birth, and to hold ourselves as examples for others. As I conclude, I implore you to reflect upon my statement. What freedoms are you guaranteed? What do you want to see change? What is the most ideal life you can live in this nation? If everyone reading were to answer these questions, then there is no doubt in my mind that a more prosperous, successful, and free society would exist in our future years.
- Mason Bibby ‘27
Photo by Eason Zhou