For the answer to that, I will resurrect (and resurrect is a good word for it — you will see why in a moment) an old story of mine that has been quoted numerous times and even turned into a monologue for the finale of that Broadway musical of many years ago, "Ben Franklin in Paris."
The authors of the play took my original words and rewrote them a little, for more entertainment value, I presume. But the original intent is still the same, and it would be a timely message to share now, in this 21st century. Here's how the story went: (credit for the play and lyrics goes to Sydney Michaels)
The actor playing yours truly stood alone on the stage, and shared his thoughts with the audience:
FRANKLIN: “I have heard about a cask of good Madeira wine, into which a small fly fell. The cask was corked, was shipped three thousand miles across the sea, where, after twenty years of lying in the dark, it was brought up, was opened, and the first glass filled from it. At which filling it, it chanced that a small drop of wine spilled upon the tabletop. And there, in that small drop of wine, lay the very same fly, who, seeming dead, did as the sun shone on him and dried his wings, arose miraculously, shook himself, and flew up bustling into the blue day as alive again as ever he had been.
Now, I don’t know how scientific that tale is, but I should like to be buried in such a cask of good Madeira wine. Then, after two hundred years, I too should rise up, and stand once more on Pennsylvania land. And walk and talk and breathe the free air. For I know in my heart somehow it will be free, I know it. I know it even now.
What a dream. Two hundred years. And I wonder, I wonder how I should find them then. Those Americans to whom the name ‘American’ will not be new. Will they love liberty, being given it outright in the crib, for nothing? And will they know that if you are not free, you are lost without hope? And will they who reap this harvest of ideas be willing to strive to preserve them, as we so willingly strove to plant them?
That all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights… yes, sir.
And would they die for it? Well, that’s the question one must finally ask oneself. Would I die for it? The answer one must say is….yes, sir, I would.
Well, anyway, it would be fun to be pickled for 200 years in a cask of good Madeira wine.”
—"Ben Franklin in Paris," Sydney Michaels, writer and lyricist
Of course, now that I'm here... not 200 but 240 years later, thanks to time travel... I can see how this country has fared since Revolutionary times.
Certainly, we have our problems. And as always, we will work our way through them. But I can tell you, candidly, America never stopped being great. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. And the best we can all do now is resolve to move forward, showing the world what America is really made of. Our freedom did come at a price. But the inspiring part of this continuing saga is that we continue to pay it forward every single day, as we help others to reap the same "harvest of ideas" that we did, ten-fold, a hundred-fold, even a thousand-fold!
A joyous Fourth to you all, my friends!
Your humble servant,