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Here's why Juneteenth is as American as July 4th

Welcome to Juneteenth – a federal holiday that’s supposed to unite, but sadly, divides. On June 19th, 1865, union soldiers proclaimed the end of the Civil War and slavery in Galveston, Texas, an event that has come to symbolize the end of slavery nationwide.  

Yet today, some conservatives believe celebrating Juneteenth is somehow part of the “woke” takeover of society. I understand their concerns, yet this fear leads people to miss that Juneteenth reflects an enduring commitment to our founding principles and embodies our nation’s greatest attributes.  

I say this as a Black pastor who has been appointed to numerous positions by Republican presidents and governors over the past 30 years. I strongly supported the establishment of Juneteenth as a federal holiday in 2021.  

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Juneteenth should be considered extension of the Fourth of July – a holiday every red-blooded American holds dear. Where Independence Day marks the proclamation of our national commitment to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” Juneteenth marks the emancipation that made this founding promise more real than any other act in American history.  

It shows that we have an incredible capacity to self-correct, righting the worst wrongs in our society. It says that even those who’ve been hurt the most can help heal our nation, putting aside anger in favor of applying America’s timeless principles. 

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The “grandmother of Juneteenth” is living proof. Opal Lee saw her house burned down by a racist mob on Juneteenth when she was 12 years old. No one would have blamed her for being angry, or even hating her country. But she didn’t take that road.  

By the same token, Juneteenth reminds us that we can move toward the cultural cohesion that conservatives crave. Without this holiday, many Black and brown Americans would feel forever estranged from our experiment in self-government.  

Juneteenth should be considered an extension of the Fourth of July – a holiday every red-blooded American holds dear. Where Independence Day marks the proclamation of our national commitment to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” Juneteenth marks the emancipation that made this founding promise more real than any other act in American history.  

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It’s a chance to remind ourselves, and each other, that America doesn’t need a new foundation. Just the opposite: We should build on the sturdy, principled foundation we already have.  

This is the heart of the conservative worldview and the essence of Juneteenth. This federal holiday is every bit as uniting as the Fourth of July, a fact worth realizing as Americans celebrate it for the third time. 

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