On the Fourth of July, the United States of America celebrates its Independence Day. It’s more than just a remembrance of the struggles and battlefields won and lost during the Revolutionary War, but also honors the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a document that set down American values as an argument for while we must throw off the shackles of despotic rule from across the sea.
Walt Disney’s sense of patriotism was developed as a young child. He famously dressed up as President Abraham Lincoln and recited the Gettysburg Address for his fifth grade class. The school Principal was so impressed he escorted Walt around to other classes to repeat the show.
When Walt Disney’s team of dream makers developed the technology to create a human audio-animatronic, Walt choose Lincoln to be the first figure. The text of the speech in “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” has changed over the years, but I’m a fan of this version, which was compiled from four of Lincoln’s own speeches from 1860-1864.
The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.
What constitutes the bulwark of our…liberty and independence? It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling sea coasts,…These are not our reliance against…tyranny…Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors.
At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some trans-Atlantic military giant, to step the ocean, and crush us at a blow?
All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined,…could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.
At what point then is the danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we ourselves must be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men, we must live through all times, or die by suicide.
Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by the menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves.
Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.
How deeply is Americana ingrained into Disneyland? Disneyland itself was dedicated to “the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America.” I think the key part comes next “with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”
Walt saw his parks, and so do many Disney fans, as emblematic of the American vision. He wanted the people who visited to leave with a glimpse of what makes this country work so well.
On this Independence Day, let’s all go forth and carry that vision with us as we celebrate that which we hold to be self-evident, that all are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
See you in the parks!
The Walt Disney Family Museum explores Walt’s patriotism by looking at key moments in his life.
Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Disney (by the great Jim Korkis)
“To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past – and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America – with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.” – Walt Disney, Disneyland Opening Day