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The U.S. Constitution.
After a layover in the City of Brotherly Love, I’m on my way home. I feel a bit of a glow.
As I write this, I’m sitting in the airport in Philadelphia. Although I got a quick look out the window of the plane on the way in, it didn’t really do justice to Independence Hall. This is not the best way to see Philadelphia.
The reason I’m here has nothing to do with Pennsylvania, and everything to do with freedom. You see, I just spent three days honoring the Constitution. For the first three days of the third week of September, I donated my time to serve as an unpaid lobbyist, visiting Congressional offices in Washington, DC.
A few years ago, thanks to the miracle of the World Wide Web, an email fell in my inbox. It came from a group of farmers who were feeling a bit of a glow because they had re-established a chapter of Farmers Union right here in the river state of Missouri. I replied to that email, and then a phone call or two led me to join Missouri Farmers Union. Along with my membership came an invitation to travel to the nation’s capitol during the annual National Farmers Union Fly-In, where local NFU members talk with their representatives.
Every so often, I fly in.
Since I started serving as an unpaid lobbyist I’ve met national leadership of the NFU, government bureaucrats, presidential candidates, but most importantly, I’ve met my elected representatives in government, in the offices where they work, in the Capitol City.
I’ve also retraced the steps of patriots.
I’ve seen a uniform worn by George Washington, the personally autographed original document that declared our freedom, classic paintings of historic leaders, marble and granite memorials to the service of American soldiers and our presidents, and debates by real life Senators and Congressmen beneath the Dome.
Freedom lives even as it has new challenges.
On this trip I met U.S. mail carriers who say their jobs are being outsourced, and I talked with union workers who were lobbying for their right to organize to seek a living wage and health care. I heard anti-war chants from protestors in front of congressional offices, met veterans who wanted to continue the fight, and I saw a celebration of America’s rich racial diversity combined with a call for tolerance of the differences that make us the great melting pot.
I talked to Congressional aides, most of whom sacrifice much in the way of pay simply for the incomparable experience the job offers. I saw soldiers, their chests heavy with battle ribbons, walking the same halls, and capitol police in body armor, carrying automatic weapons as they patrol Independence Avenue.
Through it all, freedom persists.
I spoke to fellow farmers who symbolized to me not so much a diversity of race or creed, but rather a variety of living crops. They represented the wealth and productivity that provided prosperity to many of our farming founding fathers. As farmers we have fulfilled not just our own dreams, but continued the founders’ heritage as well.
However, laws of men do not always guarantee that laws of God and nature will be obeyed. Issues such as fair trade once drove us to revolution. Those who live on the land must fight for the right to stay on the land, and for the right to a fair profit, even today. We must defend our birthright: to grow the plants, seeds, and animals our hungry nation demands. We must even argue for the right to print the name of this country on the labels of the goods we produce.
We must uphold the gift of freedom not just for ourselves, but for freedom’s sake as well.
The work of maintaining that freedom is not done solely in the House and Senate chambers or on the battlefields of our nation’s great wars. The work of keeping freedom’s legacy intact happens when common citizens take up the torch, if only for a day, through the vote or by talking personally with elected representatives. Flying in to Washington, D.C., to meet our leaders is a most fitting way to honor those who over the last 230 years have sacrificed themselves by standing between our enemies and us, even as some very focused interests work to narrow our freedoms.
Laboring to defeat the monetarily derived power of big business and foreign governments makes me more a grateful beneficiary of the patriotic accomplishments of others. Last week, for three days, I carried a torch handed to me by patriots long passed.