Independence Day 2014

President Ronald Reagan Address to the Nation on Independence Day
July 4, 1986
The Only Real Threat To American Independence Is “From Within”

My fellow Americans:
In a few moments the celebration will begin here in New York Harbor. It’s going to be quite a show. I was just looking over the preparations and thinking about a saying that we had back in Hollywood about never doing a scene with kids or animals because they’d steal the scene every time. So, you can rest assured I wouldn’t even think about trying to compete with a fireworks display, especially on the Fourth of July.

My remarks tonight will be brief, but it’s worth remembering that all the celebration of this day is rooted in history. It’s recorded that shortly after the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia celebrations took place throughout the land, and many of the former Colonists — they were just starting to call themselves Americans — set off cannons and marched in fife and drum parades.

What a contrast with the sober scene that had taken place a short time earlier in Independence Hall. Fifty-six men came forward to sign the parchment. It was noted at the time that they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors. And that was more than rhetoric; each of those men knew the penalty for high treason to the Crown. “We must all hang together,” Benjamin Franklin said, “or, assuredly, we will all hang separately.” And John Hancock, it is said, wrote his signature in large script so King George could see it without his spectacles. They were brave. They stayed brave through all the bloodshed of the coming years. Their courage created a nation built on a universal claim to human dignity, on the proposition that every man, woman, and child had a right to a future of freedom.

For just a moment, let us listen to the words again: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Last night when we rededicated Miss Liberty and relit her torch, we reflected on all the millions who came here in search of the dream of freedom inaugurated in Independence Hall. We reflected, too, on their courage in coming great distances and settling in a foreign land and then passing on to their children and their children’s children the hope symbolized in this statue here just behind us: the hope that is America. It is a hope that someday every people and every nation of the world will know the blessings of liberty.

And it’s the hope of millions all around the world. In the last few years, I’ve spoken at Westminster to the mother of Parliaments; at Versailles, where French kings and world leaders have made war and peace. I’ve been to the Vatican in Rome, the Imperial Palace in Japan, and the ancient city of Beijing. I’ve seen the beaches of Normandy and stood again with those boys of Pointe du Hoc, who long ago scaled the heights, and with, at that time, Lisa Zanatta Henn, who was at Omaha Beach for the father she loved, the father who had once dreamed of seeing again the place where he and so many brave others had landed on D-day. But he had died before he could make that trip, and she made it for him. “And, Dad,” she had said, “I’ll always be proud.”

And I’ve seen the successors to these brave men, the young Americans in uniform all over the world, young Americans like you here tonight who man the mighty U.S.S. Kennedy and the Iowa and other ships of the line. I can assure you, you out there who are listening, that these young are like their fathers and their grandfathers, just as willing, just as brave. And we can be just as proud. But our prayer tonight is that the call for their courage will never come. And that it’s important for us, too, to be brave; not so much the bravery of the battlefield, I mean the bravery of brotherhood.

All through our history, our Presidents and leaders have spoken of national unity and warned us that the real obstacle to moving forward the boundaries of freedom, the only permanent danger to the hope that is America, comes from within. It’s easy enough to dismiss this as a kind of familiar exhortation. Yet the truth is that even two of our greatest Founding Fathers, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, once learned this lesson late in life. They’d worked so closely together in Philadelphia for independence. But once that was gained and a government was formed, something called partisan politics began to get in the way. After a bitter and divisive campaign, Jefferson defeated Adams for the Presidency in 1800. And the night before Jefferson’s inauguration, Adams slipped away to Boston, disappointed, brokenhearted, and bitter.

For years their estrangement lasted. But then when both had retired, Jefferson at 68 to Monticello and Adams at 76 to Quincy, they began through their letters to speak again to each other. Letters that discussed almost every conceivable subject: gardening, horseback riding, even sneezing as a cure for hiccups; but other subjects as well: the loss of loved ones, the mystery of grief and sorrow, the importance of religion, and of course the last thoughts, the final hopes of two old men, two great patriarchs, for the country that they had helped to found and loved so deeply. “It carries me back,” Jefferson wrote about correspondence with his cosigner of the Declaration of Independence, “to the times when, beset with difficulties and dangers, we were fellow laborers in the same cause, struggling for what is most valuable to man, his right to self-government. Laboring always at the same oar, with some wave ever ahead threatening to overwhelm us and yet passing harmless . . . we rowed through the storm with heart and hand . . . .” It was their last gift to us, this lesson in brotherhood, in tolerance for each other, this insight into America’s strength as a nation. And when both died on the same day within hours of each other, that date was July 4th, 50 years exactly after that first gift to us, the Declaration of Independence.

My fellow Americans, it falls to us to keep faith with them and all the great Americans of our past. Believe me, if there’s one impression I carry with me after the privilege of holding for 5\1/2\ years the office held by Adams and Jefferson and Lincoln, it is this: that the things that unite us — America’s past of which we’re so proud, our hopes and aspirations for the future of the world and this much-loved country — these things far outweigh what little divides us. And so tonight we reaffirm that Jew and gentile, we are one nation under God; that black and white, we are one nation indivisible; that Republican and Democrat, we are all Americans. Tonight, with heart and hand, through whatever trial and travail, we pledge ourselves to each other and to the cause of human freedom, the cause that has given light to this land and hope to the world.

My fellow Americans, we’re known around the world as a confident and a happy people. Tonight there’s much to celebrate and many blessings to be grateful for. So while it’s good to talk about serious things, it’s just as important and just as American to have some fun. Now, let’s have some fun — let the celebration begin!

Note: The President spoke at 9:50 p.m. from the U.S.S. “John F. Kennedy” in New York Harbor. Earlier, on board the ship, he attended a USO show and a reenlistment and promotion ceremony for members of the crew. Following the fireworks display, the President went to the Rockefeller estate in Pocantico Hills, NY, where he stayed overnight.

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June 2014 Update

After 5 months in China it is time for some “Re’s” – renew, refresh, re-fuel and reacquaint – Sherri especially likes the reacquaint part! Rolf will be leaving July 3rd to spend the summer at home. It is hard to leave his students and work behind but at the same time he is anxious to see family and friends. Although it will not be all fun, there will be doctors and dentists to see and paperwork to get caught up on. He has been having some pain issues with his foot that he will need to see about. Please PRAY this is something that can easily be resolved and will not interfere with him and everyone enjoying his time home!

Rolf was encouraged when he recently talked to some of his former students in Xining and found that they were still going to church as much as their schedules allowed. (We reported last month that this might not be the case). With Rolf being gone please pray with us for them – “So then, just as you (they) received Christ Jesus as Lord, (they) continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you (they) were taught and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:5,6

PRAY that the students that attend church with him now are not dependent on Rolf being there but will be dependent on God and the Spirit’s prompting to continue to go even when Rolf is gone and they will become “rooted and built up in him (God).”

Rolf is still spending time with the couple we wrote about a couple of months ago and they are still seeking and asking questions. While out to dinner recently they asked Rolf how does one become a Christian. Besides talking to them he has also given them material to read. He will be seeing them again and is praying they will make a decision before he leaves. But if not, we know God is working in their hearts. But PRAY with us that the world, the flesh or the evil one does not interfere with that!!

“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” Acts 17:26,27

We ask for your prayers for a safe trip home for Rolf and an easy adjustment to the time change and life back home and he can be filled with the “Re’s.”

We couldn’t do with without you on our team behind us with your love, prayers and support. We are truly thankful and grateful for you.

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Unsung Hero

What is it that we most strongly desire in this life…

Regrettably, too few of us take the time for “contemplation” of what it is that will give us the greatest “fulfillment” in this life.

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Age of Ambition

Age of Ambition 01Evan Osnos, a staff writer at “The New Yorker,” lived in Beijing from 2005 to 2013. His new book, Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, is an inner history of China’s “transformation” told through the eyes of men and women at the center of it.

Osnos writes that, beneath the physical changes, China’s rise is a story of spiritual revival comparable to America’s “Great Awakening” in the nineteenth century, an attempt to fill “a hole in Chinese life that people named the jingshen kongxu —‘the spiritual void.’”

In this adaptation from “Age of Ambition,” he explains the five essential dynamics in China’s “quest for meaning.”

1) Chairman Mao: The accidental missionary

Karl Marx considered religion an “illusory happiness” incompatible with the struggle for socialism; during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), Red Guards demolished temples and smashed sacred objects in a surge of violence that the scholars Vincent Goossaert and David A. Palmer describe as the “most thorough destruction of all forms of religious life in Chinese and, perhaps, human history.” But they also deified Mao. As testaments to devotion, men and women collected Mao badges to wear over their hearts that hailed him as “Messiah of the Working People” and the “Great Savior.” People confessed their sins at the foot of his statues. The Cultural Revolution destroyed China’s old belief systems, but Deng Xiaoping’s economic revolution could not rebuild them. People who had learned to believe in a force larger than themselves were left to set out in search of their own faiths.

2) After the almighty yuan, what?

In 1978, the average Chinese income was $200; by 2013, it was $6,000. By almost every measure, the Chinese people have “achieved longer, healthier, more educated lives.” The relentless pursuit of fortune relieved the deprivation in China’s past, but it failed to define the ultimate purpose of the nation and the individual. By the twenty-first century, the Communist Party presided over a land of untamed “capitalism, graft, and rampant inequality.” In sprinting ahead, China had bounded past whatever barriers once held back the forces of “corruption and moral disregard.” People did not trust the institutions around them: “the Party, the press, big companies that had failed to provide safe food.” People are placing their faith elsewhere. In the bookstores of my neighborhood in Beijing, the Chinese titles included “A Guidebook for the Soul and What Do We Live For?”

3) Christianity: China’s largest N.G.O.

The Chinese constitution guarantees “freedom of religion,” but the right is narrowed by “regulations” against proselytizing and other activities. Officially, China recognizes five religions — “Taoism, Buddhism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism” — and believers can worship in “state-controlled” settings. More than twenty million Catholics and Protestants attend churches run by the “Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association” and its counterpart the “Three-Self Patriotic Movement.” But more than twice that number worship in unregistered “house churches,” which range in size from small farmhouse “study groups” to large semi public “congregations” in the cities. The house churches are not “legally” protected, so local authorities can “tolerate” them one day and shut them down the next, if “political orders” came down to tighten up. The Party is under increasing “pressure” to change the way it regards the desire for faith; China today has “sixty to eighty” million Christians, a community as large as the Communist Party. Li Fan, a secular liberal writer, told me, “Christianity has probably become China’s largest nongovernmental organization.”

4) The Other China: Xinjiang and Tibet are boiling

China’s “ethnic and religious” politics are drifting toward a crisis. Three times in six months, “militant” Uighur Muslims have “attacked” Chinese civilians, most recently on April 30, in an “assault” at a busy train station that was one of China’s first “suicide” bombings. In separate “conflicts”, more than one hundred and thirty Tibetans have set “themselves on fire” in demonstrations over the past five years, demanding greater “cultural and religious autonomy.” The divide is “deep and entrenched”: Chinese leaders regard the self-immolations, and the Uighur attacks, as “terrorism” intended to peel away a part of China that is more than three times the size of Texas. By and large, “Han Chinese,” who represent more than 90 percent of China’s population, are “proud” of their history in Tibet and Xinjiang, which they see as a costly process of bringing “prosperity” to backward regions. The leaders of the People’s Republic and their ethnic minorities have “rarely” been farther from a “peaceful” resolution.

5) The home field advantage

For new sources of meaning, Chinese citizens are looking not only to religion but also to “philosophy, psychology, and literature” for new ways of orienting themselves in a world of ideological “incoherence and unrelenting” competition. “What obligation does an individual have to a stranger in a hyper competitive, market-driven society? How much responsibility does a citizen have to speak the truth when speaking the truth is dangerous? Is it better to try to change an authoritarian system from within, or to oppose it from outside, at the risk of having no effect at all?” They are finding some answers in their own history. In the poorest reaches of the Chinese countryside, temples are reopening and offering a mix of “Taoism, Buddhism, and a vast range of folk religions.” China has passed a milestone to become the world’s largest Buddhist nation. The Chinese president Xi Jinping quotes “Confucian” classics more often than any of his predecessors, seeking a connection to a “philosophical” tradition that the Communist Party once “derided” as backwards and feudal.

The prospect that China will make a wholesale turn toward Western religion has never seemed likely outside the reveries of the true believers. History suggests that China is more inclined to absorb the most useful parts of Western “faiths and philosophies” and discard the rest, as it had with Marxism, capitalism, and other imports.

One thing is clear: “Nothing has caused more upheaval in the last hundred years of Chinese history than the battle over what to believe.”

Today, the Party is not allowing the growth of faith as much as it is trying to keep up with it.

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Passport Fail

Passport Fail 02

The next time you are traveling abroad and have a child with you, please take extra care of your passport.

A Chinese man and his four-year-old son are stuck in South Korea because the boy, apparently in the mood to do some drawing, used his father’s passport as a drawing book and drew some very cute drawings on it.

The child used his father’s passport as a coloring book and colored his father’s eyes and also drew him some whiskers and a beard.

Now, both of them are stranded in South Korea with their chances of returning home being slim to none.

I can’t stop laughing. When is drawing a Hitler mustache and Devil horns on a face ever not funny? This kid is going places in life.

Perhaps leaving the mainland of China for South Korea isn’t so bad.

Nice job, Junior.

Passport Fail 01

The four-year-old boy drew on his father’s passport and even gave him some whiskers and a beard.

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China’s Death Penalty

Death Penalty 01

Chinese police officers rehearsing execution procedure.

China defends death penalty after scathing report

Despite being criticized as the world’s top executioner by Amnesty, China has defended using the “death penalty” as a traditional deterrent, after a report said its annual “executions” has again far “exceeded” the rest of the world’s combined.

Beijing judicially put to death thousands of people in 2013 compared to a total of 778 elsewhere, the campaign group Amnesty International said in its annual report. It did not give a specific figure for China as Beijing considers the statistic a state secret and does not release it.

But foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei dismissed the study and highlighted policies to curb capital punishment. “The relevant organization always has biased opinions against China,”  he said at a regular press briefing.

Whether or not a country retains the death penalty is mainly based on the “traditional culture and specific national” conditions.

“It meets the aspirations of the Chinese public and will also help crack down on and prevent severe criminal activities,” he said, adding that the practice also followed the country’s “legal and cultural traditions”.

Mass Sentencing 03

Chinese police officers rehearsing lethal injection procedures.

Beijing was taking steps to “implement the policy of strictly controlling and prudently using death penalty”, Hong said.

China has cut back on executions since ramping them up in the 1980’s and 90’s as a way to “prevent” crime amid the social “upheavals” that came with “drastic” economic reform.

A key reform in 2007 required the Supreme Court to review all death sentences.

The number of crimes “eligible” for capital punishment was cut from 68 to 55 in 2011, and in November Beijing “pledged” further cuts, without providing details.

Human Rights Watch in January estimated Chinese executions at “less than 4,000 in recent years”, down from 10,000 annually a decade earlier.

The China-focused rights group Dui Hua put the total around 3,000 in 2012, down from 12,000 in 2002.

China Death Penalty News

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Mass Sentencing

Mass Sentencing 01

Security officers stand behind the accused, wearing orange vests and standing in trucks, during a mass sentencing in Yili prefecture in northwest China’s Xinjiang region.

In a spectacle designed to show their resolve against “terrorism,” Chinese authorities held a public sentencing in a football stadium in the northwestern Xinjiang region of 55 people convicted of violent crimes.

More than 7,000 people watched from the stands in Yili prefecture during sentencing, and videos were distributed by police to Chinese media. It was an unusually “public” display in a country where court proceedings are normally “closed” to the public.

The sentencing follows the “car bombing” in the northwestern city of Urumqi in which 43 people died, the deadliest “attack” in China in nearly five years.

From the names of the “defendants” provided by authorities, they appeared to be ethnic Uighurs. Uighurs are a mostly Muslim, Turkic-speaking people from northwestern China.

Li Minghui, the deputy secretary of the local Communist Party, was quoted by the New China News Agency predicting that religious extremists and separatists would soon become “as unpopular as rats crossing the street.’’

The defendants were convicted of crimes that included “homicide, membership in terrorist organizations, harboring criminals and secession,” which in China refers to ethnic minorities coveting their own state.

Details of the crimes were released in only one case. The murder in April 2013 of a family of four, including a 3-year-old child, who were killed with “hatchets and knives” in their rented apartment. The family had recently moved from central China, and the “implication” was that they were killed because they were ethnic “Han,” the Chinese majority.

The three men convicted of the murder were given “death” sentences, according to state media.

China is on “high alert” after a cluster of bombings and stabbings of increasing sophistication and lethality. In the last attack, two SUV’s crashed through a “barricade” into a crowded pedestrian market while their occupants “hurled” bombs through the car windows.

Last month, passengers at the Urumqi train station were attacked with “knives and bombs” on the day that President Xi Jinping was visiting the region.

Jacob Zenn, an analyst with the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation, said “terrorism might come to dominate” Xi’s leadership in much the same way it did for President George W. Bush.

“Terrorism might come to mark the first five years of Xi Jinping’s term, and it’s not an easy battle to win because you are judged,” Zenn said. “Every attack is a loss for you. It’s going to be hard to be foolproof on this.’’

More than 200 people have been arrested in Xinjiang in recent weeks. Local authorities said they had “busted” a bomb-making gang from Hotan in the Xinjiang region and “confiscated” 1.8 tons of explosives.

Chinese authorities said the “plotters” had been inspired and instructed by “Islamic” militant videos.

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