Every day is day of freedom

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 8, 2003

In America, every day is Independence Day. However, it took my recent trip to a foreign country to realize the truth of that statement.

I spent this Fourth of July in Romania, a former communist country.

It changed the way I look at America and our freedom forever.

We think we are fortunate and have a good life here, but we have no earthly idea how good it is. We take so much for granted.

In 1989, the people of Romania shot their communist leader and his wife, and then dragged their bodies down the boulevard in front of the 3,000 room Palace (which remains to be the second largest building in the world) that they had built for themselves while the people around them were starving to death.

It was an awful and gruesome revolution which they found necessary in order to gain their freedom and independence.

In many ways the revolution continues to linger through the results of poverty and oppression that occurred due to years of communist leadership.

The average salary for a college graduate in Romania is $100 a month.

Many Romanian children ages 10 and under carry babies around on their hips like a sack of groceries all day long begging tourists for money. It’s their job, and it’s heartbreaking.

The aftermath of the communist regime has left its imprint on all facets of life in that country.

The average Romanian is what we would consider anorexic, and they have a look about them that is one of being disheartened and downtrodden.

They say it takes a full generation to recover from the effects of poverty and the influence and consequences of communism. If so, these people are not even half way there.

Americans are blessed and fortunate.

We have been given many freedoms by God and by man and have fought to preserve those freedoms.

We should never lose sight of the price it has cost us while others across the globe struggle just to imagine it.

Upon my return, my Sunday school teacher asked what was the most obvious thing to me that Romania had once been ruled by communism.

My answer was that in my lifetime, America has never failed to know freedom and that until now, they have never known it at all.

It’s a comparison that can’t even be made.

Since revolting and gaining their freedom, the Romanians still struggle with knowing how to utilize it: how to prosper, how to succeed.

Freedom is still new to them. They have a great deal of catching up to do.

Every Fourth of July is special to me because it symbolizes our country’s independence and freedom.

This Fourth of July was even more special to me this year, because for the first time in my life I saw a country that has never known that freedom and independence.

It was a moving experience and a hard lesson in reality.

Thanks to God, the framers of our Constitution, the United States military and many others, on our worst days, for more than 227 years now, America has not failed to know freedom in all its abundance, the joy it gives our souls and the success it brings our nation.

May every day be as blessed and as free as America on the Fourth of July, because now I understand that every day is Independence Day.

Beth Chapman is Alabama’s state auditor. She and her husband, James, and two sons, Taylor and Thatcher, are from North Shelby County