The Fourth of July is a sacred day in our country. A day of history, of hope, remembrance and resolve with promise and possibilities. Before me stands monuments of the greatest and the goodness of our nation—monuments of light and liberty.
There is a towering memorial to George Washington. The general who led our revolution, the president who set our nation on its course. There’s a memorial to Thomas Jefferson, whose words about liberty and equality literally changed the world. And across the tidal basin from the Jefferson memorial, there stands Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his arms crossed, his eyes fixed ahead toward the promised land where equality is not only an aspiration but a reality.
They help define who we are. Guide what we do. Remind us of the work that history has given us in our own time.
This year, the Fourth of July, is a day of special celebration for we are emerging from the darkness of a year of pandemic and isolation, a year of pain, fear and heartbreaking loss. Just think back to where this nation was a year ago, think back to where you were a year ago and think about how far we’ve come.
From silent streets to crowded parade routes, lined with people waving American flags. From empty stadiums and arenas to fans back in their seats, cheering together again. From families, pressing hands against a window, to grandparents hugging their grandchildren once again. We’re back traveling again. We’re back seeing each one another again. Businesses are opening and hiring again. We’re seeing record job creation, and record economic growth, the best in four decades, and I might add, the best in the world. Today all across this nation, we could say with confidence, America is coming back together.
245 years ago we declared our independence from a distant king. Today we’re closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus. That’s not to say the battle against COVID-19 is over, we’ve got a lot more work to do. But just as our declaration in 1776 was a call to action, not a reason for complacency, or a claim of victory, it was a call to action. The same is true today. Back then we had the power of an idea on our side, today we have the power of science.
Thanks to our heroic vaccine effort, we’ve gained the upper hand against this virus. We can live our lives, our kids can go back to school, our economy is roaring back. Don’t get me wrong. COVID-19 has not been vanquished. We all know powerful variants have emerged like the Delta variant. But the best defense against these variants is to get vaccinated. My fellow Americans it is the most patriotic thing you can do. So please, if you have not gotten vaccinated, do it, do it now. For yourself. For your loved ones. For your community. For your country. You know, that is how we’re going to stay ahead of these variants and protect the hard-won progress we’ve made.
We never again want to be where we were a year ago today. So today, while the virus hasn’t been vanquished, we know this—it no longer controls our lives, it no longer paralyzes our nation. And it’s within our power to make sure it never does again. For that, we can thank the scientists and researchers, the educators, and all the frontline and essential workers, like many of you here today who became the light to see us through the darkness.
I hope you know that you, the American people, have been part of one of the most remarkable achievements in American history. But in this moment of joy, we know that this day falls hard on all those who’ve lost a loved one.
Each day I carry a card in my pocket with my schedule on it. On the back of that schedule on that card, I have the number of Americans who lost their lives to COVID. As of tonight, that number is 603,018 people who have lost their lives. They’re husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, grandparents, friends, neighbors, coworkers.
We also remember all those who lost this year, that we lost and families lost to other causes of death and cruel twists of fate. They, too, left behind loved ones unable to grieve, or mourn, or find closure. Each of them meant the world to someone they left behind. Those of you who have been through all this, know that to heal you have to remember. We commit to always remember them. That’s what we’ll do.
I’ve long said America is unique. Unlike every other nation on Earth, we were founded on an idea. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all people are created equal endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And while we have never fully lived up to those words, we have never given up on them. They continue to animate us and they remind us at that our best, we as Americans believe.
We Americans, we believe in honesty and decency. And treating everyone with dignity and respect, giving everyone a fair shot, demonizing no one, giving hate no safe harbor, leaving no one behind. We lead by the power of our example, not the example of our power. And we are part of something so much bigger than ourselves. We stand as a beacon to the world. It’s a code, it’s a code. A uniquely American code, it’s who we are.
All of the service members and your families that are here tonight. All of you serving around the world, it’s the greatest honor to serve as your commander in chief. Jill and I and our entire family, thank you for your service and sacrifice. Like so many military families, thinking of your loved ones who served, we think of our son Beau today. You’re all part of a long chain of patriots who pledged their lives and their sacred honor in defense of this nation and democracy around the world. For freedom and fair play, for peace and security and opportunity. For the cause of justice, for the soul of America itself.
But the defense of all that we love doesn’t fall on your shoulders alone. It falls on every one of us, every American. Each day we are reminded there’s nothing guaranteed about our democracy, nothing guaranteed about our way of life. We have to fight for it, defend it, earn it. Folks, it’s up to all of us to protect the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The right to equal justice under the law. The right to vote and have that vote counted. The right to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and know our children and grandchildren will be safe on this planet for generations to come. The right to rise in the world as far as your God-given talent can take you, unlimited by barriers of privilege or power.
One of the great gifts of the spirit of independence – think about this – one of the great gifts is our capacity to see ourselves whole and see ourselves honestly—what we’ve got right, what we’ve got wrong. It’s a measure of the greatness of America, and we are a great nation. We don’t seek to bury the wrongs. We face it. We work to make it right. You know, history tells us that when we stand together, when we unite in common cause, when we see ourselves not as Republicans or Democrats but as Americans, there is simply no limit to what we can achieve. None. Today we see the results of unity and purpose.
For together we are beating the virus. Together we are breathing life into our economy. Together we will rescue our people from division and despair. But together we must do it. Over the past year, we have lived through some of our darkest days. Now I truly believe we’re about to see our brightest future.
Folks, this is a special nation, a great nation, and there is a timeless truth about America. The most powerful idea in the history of the world, in the hearts of the people of this country. It beats in all our hearts. No matter your race or ethnicity. No matter your gender identity or sexual orientation. No matter your disability, no matter your faith. It beats in the hearts of rich and poor alike. It unites America. Whether your ancestors were native to this land or brought here forcibly and enslaved. Whether you were immigrants from generations back like my family who came from Ireland, or you are coming here today looking to build a better life for your family, like our fellow Americans I just swore in, in the White House two days ago. The American creed. We use that phrase, the American creed. Because we’re all equal, created equal. It was written a long time ago. But the genius is that every generation of Americans has expanded it wider and wider to include those who were excluded before. That’s why it’s never gathered dust in our history books, it’s still alive today. Alive in our hearts, alive in the work of our hands. Alive not only in the history we read but in the history we are making.
My fellow Americans, now we are the guardians of that very idea of America. It is up to us to save it, to preserve it, to build on it. And I know we will. On this sacred day, I look out to those monuments on our National Mall, and beyond them into the hearts of our people across the land, I know this—it’s never ever been a good bet to bet against America, never.
We just have to remember who we are. We are the United States of America. And there is nothing, nothing we can’t do if we do it together.
Folks, happy Fourth of July America. God bless you all. And may God protect our troops.
- This is full transcript of the 14-minute speech by President Joe Biden from the South Lawn of the White House on July 4 to commemorate U.S. independence and mark the country’s progress in battling the pandemic