Yesterday, February 1, was the observance of National Freedom Day. This day is particularly appropriate for reflecting on the liberties we have been provided due to a significant event that took place on February 1. That being Abraham Lincoln’s signing of a joint resolution, February 1, 1865, resulting in the 13th amendment, stating “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Another significant event is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948, which declares that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”. Along with these particular events, February 1 also marks the beginning of Black History Month.

Freedom is something that can often be taken for granted by many of us. We hear the word and we understand the significance of the liberties that we have been afforded, but freedom is typically not tied to a tangible privilege in our lives. Today, I would urge everyone to take a moment to think about what freedom means to you. Not in a broad sense relating to the general concept, but instead some of the very specific things in your life that you hold close. Maybe it’s being able to come home to your family at the end of the day. Maybe it’s speaking your mind knowing that, while people may not agree, you will always have the right to voice your opinion. Maybe it’s something as simple as being yourself without having to fear persecution. It can be anything in the world, but it should be something that is specific to you. While freedom should be seen as a collective right, it is also something that we each carry as individuals. It is one of the few things both intensely collective and personal. When we are able to think about freedom through the lens of our own personal experiences, we can begin to appreciate the most simple and yet beautiful aspects of our lives.

When viewing freedom through our personal experiences, we can also begin to sympathize with those who do not share the same privileges. This is why freedom should not be viewed as a trophy to put on a shelf, but instead as a daily and continuous struggle. This struggle is for both those who are lucky enough to be afforded certain liberties, and those who are continuing to fight for them. So when you think about some of the personal things in your life that you hold close, also think about those who are not so fortunate, and ask yourself how far you would go to protect those inherently beautiful things in your life.