At noon ET today, Joey Chestnut will attempt to retain his title in Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. Approximately thirty-five thousand fans are expected to convene on New York’s Coney Island to watch. Chestnut is the top male hot dog eating champion of all time, having won the title fifteen times. He holds the world record for eating seventy-six hot dogs in ten minutes.
Chestnut will receive $10,000 if he wins again, but he says his net worth exceeds $4 million. Most of his income is generated by contest earnings, paid appearances, and endorsement deals.
If you’re saying, “Only in America,” you’re right, at least in sentiment. Imagine someone becoming a millionaire by eating hot dogs in Russia or China, Cuba or North Korea.
Our ethos is built on five words in our founding declaration: “All men are created equal.” While America still has far to go to fulfill this creed, the independence we celebrate today and the impact we have made on human history demonstrate its transformative power.
Ukraine’s president wishes America a happy birthday
In a July 2 Wall Street Journal op-ed titled, “Happy Birthday, America,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky writes: “America’s Founders upended history when they forged a republic based on individual freedom and political pluralism, pledging to live as ‘free and independent states.’ It was, and is, the greatest attempt in history to rid mankind of tyranny. They broke with centuries of subservience to create a new type of nation, one where all are equal and live free.”
Forty-two years ago, another president gave voice to the significance of this day in words that repay reading today. In his commencement address on May 17, 1981, at the University of Notre Dame, President Ronald Reagan noted:
This Nation was born when a band of men, the Founding Fathers, a group so unique we’ve never seen their like since, rose to . . . selfless heights. Lawyers, tradesmen, merchants, farmers—fifty-six men achieved security and standing in life but valued freedom more. They pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. Sixteen of them gave their lives. Most gave their fortunes. All preserved their sacred honor.
They gave us more than a nation. They brought to all mankind for the first time the concept that man was born free, that each of us has inalienable rights, ours by the grace of God, and that government was created by us for our convenience, having only the powers that we choose to give it.
Then President Reagan placed our democracy in historical context:
This experiment in man’s relation to man is a few years into its third century. Saying that may make it sound quite old. But let’s look at it from another viewpoint or perspective. A few years ago, someone figured out that if you could condense the entire history of life on Earth into a motion picture that would run for 24 hours a day, 365 days . . . this idea that is the United States wouldn’t appear on the screen until 3½ seconds before midnight on December 31st.
And in those 3½ seconds not only would a new concept of society come into being, a golden hope for all mankind, but more than half the activity, economic activity in world history, would take place on this continent. Free to express their genius, individual Americans, men and women in 3½ seconds would perform such miracles of invention, construction, and production as the world had never seen.
“One day this nation will rise up”
All of that because America believes that “all men are created equal.”
- All men prohibits all exclusions, racial or otherwise.
- Are is in the present tense and thus includes you and me.
- Created points to our identity and status as created by God “in his own image” (Genesis 1:27).
- Equal means that each of us is as valuable as all of us.
However, as I admitted earlier, this promise is far from fulfilled. This is because, as I noted yesterday, there is only so much that human words and laws can do to change our fallen human nature.
The good news is that the good news of the gospel can do what no other news can.
Consider Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee so blinded by religious and racial bigotry that he sought the deaths of the Gentile Christians he persecuted (cf. Acts 22:4). But Jesus so changed his heart that he would later testify, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
As we celebrate America’s birth today, let’s renew our commitment to sharing this good news that produces the spiritual birth Americans need so desperately. Let’s thank our Father for the gift of liberty our Founding Fathers have given us, then let’s use that gift to pray and work for a spiritual awakening that will transform our people and thus our nation.
Then this country we love will fulfill the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “One day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” And politically, ethnically, and most of all spiritually, we will be “free at last.”
“When great causes are on the move”
In his commencement address at the University of Notre Dame, President Reagan included this observation: “Winston Churchill, during the darkest period of the ‘Battle of Britain’ in World War II, said: ‘When great causes are on the move in the world . . . we learn we are spirits, not animals, and that something is going on in space and time, and beyond space and time, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.’”
Will you do your spiritual duty for America today?