Declaring Our Independence, Winning Our Future

The following are remarks by Mayor Richard Thomas at the Fourth of July Celebration at Saint Paul’s Church National Historic Site in Mount Vernon. Note: For more than 135 years, a member of the Banning family has been reciting the Declaration of Independence on the village green in front of St. Paul’s Church.

We are, at this moment, at a tremendous crossroads. And at this moment in our history, in our country, we have some decisions to make. And as we reflect on why we declared our independence as a country some two hundred-plus years ago; the same reasons, the same grievances, — taxations on without representation — still ring true in many respects today.

And, we have to remember the reasons why our forefathers stood up against tyranny; a tyranny of dead ideas, a tyranny that represented the belief that people should not have the right to freedom of speech, which was born right here in the great city of Mount Vernon.

And as we remember our roots and we thank the Banning family for continuing this proud tradition and legacy, we must look ahead and know that yes, we will prevail… Because our need for progress is far greater than the ignorance that has been forced upon us.

And on this day, we must declare our independence again from the political dysfunction that holds us back. There are so many things that make Mount Vernon great; and if we are to become greater, we have to make sure we bring back Memorial Field, we fix our broken sewers, we confront the challenges, and we conquer them.

That’s who we are, that’s who we have been, that’s what our forefathers fought for, died for, and that’s what this freedom bell, which still rings here in Mount Vernon, represents. Freedom. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of free thought. But we can’t be free, if we don’t break those bonds that are breaking us apart.

I believe in America, I believe in our Bill of Rights, I believe in Mount Vernon, and I believe that our children should have freedom; they should have the right to pursue happiness. They should be able to experience liberty. But if we don’t stand up right now and make some hard decisions today, we will not be where we need to be tomorrow.

So, as we get ready to hear from our key-note speaker — listen to the history poured through Mr. Banning as he reads the Declaration of Independence — we have to remember that right now is our moment to not just celebrate our proud past, but to decide what we are going to do to seize our opportunity, to win our future.

Thank you so much for joining us this morning. God bless Mount Vernon, and God bless America.