Every year on July 4 we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the document that trumpeted our desire to be free from the rule of Great Britain. And ever since that famous date in 1776, patriotic phrases that celebrate the virtue of the United States of America – and our freedom from Great Britain – have become a part of our vocabulary.
Patriotism is often defined as, “love of and devotion to one’s country,” and it can be visualized in a variety of forms. Let’s explore some of the more well-known patriotic excerpts and see what we find.
Thomas Jefferson: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
Jefferson wrote this little gem in a letter addressed to William S. Smith in 1787. Jefferson was one of the founding fathers of the country and the primary writer of the Declaration of Independence. He later became President of the United States, and many of the things he wrote or said have been logged into American history books. This particular quote is often used as a rallying cry against oppression, and expresses the need for Americans to remain on constant vigil against tyranny.
Abraham Lincoln: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
Delivered in 1863, the Gettysburg Address is Lincoln’s most famous speech. It was given as the Civil War raged through the nation and Lincoln worked desperately to save the country he loved. The oft-quoted first few words of this speech personify patriotism. They work to remind listeners why this great experiment known as the United States of America happened in the first place.
John F. Kennedy: “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
American presidents can scarcely utter anything without someone scribbling it down for posterity. But when Kennedy gave this speech, he meant business. It was his inaugural address in 1961, and Kennedy was ready to take America into a new era. His presidency became one of the most famous in American history. Cut short by his assassination, Kennedy’s reign quickly became known as “Camelot” after his death. His steady hand on the tiller of the ship of America etched his inaugural words into patriotic memory for all time.
Francis Scott Key: “Land of the free, home of the brave.”
Nothing is more patriotic than a country’s national anthem. The Star-Spangled Banner, written by Key in 1814, is a national icon of patriotism. Key originally wrote the song as a poem to describe the battle he witnessed at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. The poem was later set to the tune of a popular song of the time, called “The Anacreontic Song,” and it took off. Played by bands everywhere, especially during Fourth of July celebrations and flag-raising events, the song has become synonymous with patriotism. However, it wasn’t until 1931 that President Hoover signed a law that made the Star-Spangled-Banner the country’s official anthem.
Whether you are eating hot dogs at a Fourth of July celebration, or just enjoying some fireworks, you are bound to hear some patriotic phrases floating around.
What are some of your favorites? We invite you to share them in the comments.