Freedom and liberty are fine-sounding words. Everybody acknowledges their value. Yet most people take them for granted.
Reminders of freedom, its history, its cost, the need for vigilance, are given on occasions like Memorial Day or the 4th of July. But liberty is more than "rights" - it also encompasses responsibilities. This balance is too often neglected, with too much attention paid to rights and not enough to the accompanying obligations that go with them.Any society that consists only of "rights" will soon find itself in trouble and the United States already is having some such problems. Emphasis only on rights carries overtones of selfishness; duty implies a larger concern.
Only when public and individual responsibility are seen as being as large as "rights," will the latter be really secure.
That's the value of Freedom Awareness Week sponsored this week by the Utah Chapter Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. The emphasis is not simply on freedom as a concept, but on the duties of citizenship in a democracy.
A variety of activities culminated in a "We believe in heroes" awards luncheon at Little America Hotel. The theme was not wartime heroes, but citizens who help make freedom and democracy work because of their concern for others.
The heroes included Lowell L. Bennion, for a lifetime of community service for the young, the poor, the homeless, the handicapped, the hungry; David A. Conley and Steven Eugene Blake, for risking their own lives to rescue two electric shock victims; Kerry and Patti Chlarson, for demonstrating how even most drastic personal handicaps can be overcome; G. Alan Jacobsen, for risking his own life and suffering a near fatal wound to rescue a kidnap victim; David and Suzanne Stott, for helping arrange adoptive homes for many children, including the handicapped, and for adopting seven such youngsters themselves and serving as foster parents to ll others; Shane Wall, who repeatedly plunged into the waters of Utah Lake to save three youngsters.
These are heroes, not so much for bravery, although they showed plenty of that in adverse circumstances, but because their lives lift the rest of us with their examples of the unquenchable human spirit.
That's what freedom is for; not to sink into hedonism or ease, but to be able to rise to better human heights.