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As with most people, my working schedule has been blurred. With colleagues in different time zones, 24/7 emails and texts, I can’t remember the last time I had an evening or weekend to myself—the traditional periods of respite.
But there are two holidays when I refuse to work: Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July.
Thanksgiving is the easy one to explain. It’s a harvest festival, deeply connected with the Objectivist virtue of productiveness when we enjoy what we have reaped and sowed. As a secular person, the thanks I give are to America, for the freedom that allows me to work for my vision.
Which brings me to the Fourth. I am an intellectual and writer by profession. I am protected in my work by the First Amendment, for which I am deeply grateful. As a spokesman for an unconventional view, I’m especially aware of how often innovators of ideas, throughout history, have been persecuted, exiled, tortured, and executed.
I think of Frederick Douglass. After escaping slavery, Douglass could have lived out his days in peace and quiet somewhere. Instead he chose to champion the cause of abolitionism and publicly fight to free those who were still enslaved, and later to champion liberty for all.
I think of Ayn Rand, who escaped Soviet Russia and who, as an immigrant to the United States, took advantage of her new freedom to become a bestselling novelist, a philosopher, and the founder of an intellectual movement that still influences the lives of individuals here in America and throughout the world.
In America, thanks to the Founding Fathers, and despite the decline in respect for free speech in universities, I know that I won’t be fined for speaking my mind, or told by government what I can or can’t say, much less suffer the stocks or the stake.
I wish my fellow producers in business and finance enjoyed the same freedom. In Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, a final scene has Judge Narragansett penning an amendment to the Constitution in parallel with the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of production and trade …"
I hope that day will come. Meanwhile, as Rand said, “I want you to look at the birth of a miracle: the United States of America. If it is ever proper for men to kneel, we should kneel when we read the Declaration of Independence.”
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David Kelley is the founder of The Atlas Society. A professional philosopher, teacher, and best-selling author, he has been a leading proponent of Objectivism for more than 25 years.