This past summer, I had the extraordinary opportunity to visit Philadelphia and tour the many historical sites related to the founding of the United States of America.
From about the time I was in middle school, when I developed an intense interest in the history of the American Revolution, I yearned to go to Philadelphia, especially to tour Independence Hall, to experience the setting of where the United States was founded. It was indeed one of the most exhilarating moments of my life when my yearning was finally fulfilled as I stepped inside Independence Hall.
The ranger leading our tour group talked about how the men who met in the building launched a nation whose existence was focused on the ideals of freedom and liberty. Ever since those inestimable days in the 18th century, the history of the United States has been a progression toward more fully realizing those ideals for all people. The work our Founding Fathers engaged in then is something that remains for us to do as our own work this day.
Independence Hall is one place of many where government assemblies first took place in the early days of the United States.
I couldn’t help but notice this theme re-echoed as I toured other sites in Philadelphia.
At the National Liberty Museum, the opening video showed examples of how people are living out liberty, like a musical band composed of people with disabilities, Dr. King leading the Civil Rights Movement, and a charity that grows vegetables for charity kitchens.
And a special presentation at the National Constitution Center also conveyed an important message: The principles of the Constitution, which was created at the Constitutional Convention, and operated in government work in historic buildings in Philadelphia in the 1790s, is now a responsibility that falls to us, to carry on and expand those principles.
This responsibility includes creating a society where all may live freely, like in the revolutionary vision William Penn had for the city of Philadelphia. This vision resulted in great diversity in the religious congregations in the city, which included Old St. Joseph Roman Catholic Parish, which for many years was the only place in the entire British Empire where Mass could be celebrated publicly.
Indeed, there were some important events that happened in Philadelphia that are at the heart of what the United States is all about as a nation. It was the experience of a lifetime to connect with the places that served as the setting for such pivotal events, to be renewed in an understanding of what it means to be a U.S. citizen.
Philadelphia is definitely one city that every American should visit, to see the places like Independence Hall, to connect with the heart of this nation, and to gain a deeper sense of the significance of our founding principles.