Independence Day Message: Freedom Begets Equal Opportunity
Happy Birthday America! 🇺🇸💥💥
Call it coincidence, but did you know that the most sweeping civil rights law in USA history was enacted just two days prior to Independence Day on July 2, 1964.
This uncanny timing is somewhat ironic because freedom and independence beget equal opportunity per "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" as enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.
Thus, as the USA celebrates Independence Day this year, let's take some time to think about the significance of President
Lyndon B. Johnson signing the groundbreaking Civil Rights Act of 1964 (CRA) 53 years ago (as pictured below in the Oval Office of the White House).
The CRA opened the doors of opportunity in the workplace to nearly every place in society for those shut out for so long -- that being, minorities and women. This raises an important question on the Fourth of July:
How can any U.S. citizen achieve "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" without equal opportunities?
To paraphrase the Founding Fathers, the answer should be "self-evident."
It appears to me that independence and equal opportunity go
hand-in-hand. How can any person fully achieve one without the
Yet as America celebrates Independence Day with parades,
barbecues and dazzling fireworks displays nationwide, it remains an
unfortunate reality that equal opportunity for ALL citizens is still
lacking -- despite significant progress made over the past half century.
The disparity of equality is still especially glaring in the 21st century workplace, from Wall Street to Main Street USA.
As I wrote here in 2016 per a blog post entitled, Why Workforce Diversity is Simply Good Business:
- "All employment decisions should be strictly based on merit, talent and ability to do the job. All employees and applicants deserve the freedom to compete and advance in the workplace on a fair and level playing field without discriminatory barriers."
- "There are still too many glass ceilings and sticky floors, so to speak, which hold talented employees back from reaching their full potential."
Reflecting on the CRA
When he signed the Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson said the following:
- “[O]ur generation of Americans has been called on to continue the unending search for justice within our own borders. We believe that all men are created equal. Yet many are denied equal treatment."
- "We believe that all men have certain unalienable rights. Yet many Americans do not enjoy those rights."
- "We believe that
all men are entitled to the blessings of liberty. Yet millions are being
deprived of those blessings-not because of their own failures, but
because of the color of their skin."
- "But it cannot continue. Our Constitution, the foundation of our Republic, forbids it. The principles of our freedom forbid it. Morality forbids it. And the law I will sign tonight forbids it.”
Three Big Questions
While the landmark civil rights laws of the 1960s -- most notably the CRA and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 -- did not cure
all societal ills, they certainly have had a long-term positive impact
on the fabric of America. Yet vexing problems remain.
Therefore, as the USA celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence, let's recall that freedom and equal opportunity for ALL beget independence for ALL.
Moreover, it should be obvious to any objective observer that equal opportunity for every American is still the great unfinished business of our nation. The history of civil rights in America still contains many critically important lessons for Millennials and their younger cohort, Generation Z. This is timely today because the fast evolving mobile, digital and virtual Information Age may transform societal norms and values in unforeseen ways going forward.
The good news is that today's young people tend not to view life through a racial lens, but to see people as people. Why can't all generations emulate that admirable outlook?
Following are some big questions to ponder:
1) What strategies should a new generation of leaders leverage to create the kind of society in which all people are judged on the "content of their character" and not the color of their skin (or other discriminatory factors), as civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of half a century ago?
2) Where do we go from here to assure that every citizen in 21st century America is guaranteed the freedom and equal opportunities necessary to achieve the (too often elusive) American Dream, as enshrined in the Declaration of Independence? That being, "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
3) Are the answers really too perplexing with today's unprecedented demographic diversity, which is exemplified by an increasingly multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-cultural society?
important questions to consider on this holiday as Americans think about
the true spirit and meaning of Independence Day. What do freedom, equality and true independence for all citizens mean to you?
What do YOU think?
Please share your valuable comments below...
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: I'm
an independent writer and
strategic communications advisor with over 20 years of experience in the
public and private sectors -- including work in the White House,
Congress, federal agencies, and national news media. I'm also a Brand Ambassador for beBee Affinity Social Network. In addition to beBee, you
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