OREM — Approximately 3,000 people attended the Freedom Festival annual patriotic service, held at Utah Valley University Sunday evening. Introduced by Provo Mayor John Curtis, Sen. Orrin Hatch delivered a keynote speech on the current state of American freedom, the fight for religious liberty and the reasons to celebrate Independence Day.
In his remarks, Hatch focused on the current state of our freedom, including the debate over religious liberty in America. He said:
I am deeply troubled by recent attacks on religious freedom, including attempts by some to frame religious protection laws as dangerous and even contemptuous. Religious liberty is a universal human right that undergirds the very existence of this nation.
We cannot afford to be passive observers to these attacks, nor can we sit idly by as others defame and denigrate this most fundamental of freedoms. Strengthening religious liberty is in the best interest of all Americans. It is one of the many freedoms that distinguish us as a nation.
Senator Hatch also outlined “the fruits of our freedom,” including peace, love and courage. Describing peace, Hatch told the story of Aden Batar, a refugee who fled his home in war-torn Somalia in search of peace for his family. After great trials and adversity, Batar was able to settle his family in Logan.
“Peace is foremost among the fruits of freedom,” Hatch said. “Without freedom, peace cannot exist. For those of us born into freedom, may we never take for granted the peace we now enjoy — the peace for which Aden sacrificed everything to achieve. May we also always remember the love that sustained Aden as he searched for peace and provided for his family.”
Describing love as a fruit of our freedom, Hatch told the story of Army Private First Class Ryan A. McGinnis, who gave his life for his fellow soldiers in Operation Iraqi Freedom. During a routine patrol in Baghdad, McGinnis jumped on top of a grenade to protect four other soldiers. McGinnis was killed instantly, but his sacrifice of love saved their lives.
Lastly, Hatch spoke of courage. He told the story of his brother Jesse, who enlisted in the Army Air Corps when World War II broke out. Jesse was a nose-gunner, who “sat in one of the most vulnerable positions on the airplane.”
“His job was dangerous,” Hatch said, “but he was good at it. In fact, he was one of the few American GIs to ever shoot down a German jet from the nose gunner position.”
Jesse was killed in a mission over Austria, but Hatch spoke of his courage as an example that has guided his life.
“Though the grief was unbearable, I will be forever grateful for my brother’s example of courage,” Hatch said. “Jesse’s courage stemmed from his love of freedom. He loved his country more than he loved himself, which is why he had the fortitude to mount the nose gunner’s seat in more than 185 missions over Europe.”
Hatch concluded by saying, “This week, as we celebrate liberty and its many virtues, may we honor these heroes’ example by renewing our own commitment to freedom and equality — the foundations of American democracy.”
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