On July 4th you'll often see exhortations about how "freedom is not free". These normally accompany images of the US Military and/or First Responders. The images and message are important, however I think they are slightly off the mark. Freedom is Free. Freedom is not granted to anyone - it is inherent in every person. No one can make you free. You are. However, in many places, and to varying degrees, freedom has been wrested away or outright stolen. Whether you think it derived from God, a god, or some non-deist source, being free and exhibiting freewill is an inherently human activity. Even in those places (like the US) where we are essentially "free" there are dark forces seemingly on an endless quest to interrupt freedom, usurp it, or deliberately steal it for their own nefarious purposes. It is the maintenance of freedom in our Nation where the cost truly exists. It is a cost that many are not paying . We are seeing the rot that neglecting such maintenance begets. It is axiomatic that our Active and Reserve military forces are an important cost of freedom maintenance. They keep the wolf from our door and respond to crises abroad and here. They are the vanguards of what we, as Americans, think of freedom. Its readiness - personnel, equipment, policy, strategy - are costs of freedom that have been allowed to languish. It is also why, parenthetically, activists seek to change the nature of the US Military to achieve their questionable ends. The activists understand that our Servicemen and Servicewomen represent the best of America, and they seek to include their activism within it. The cost here is the maintenance of principles and standards. It is fair to say that there is significant conflict on what this means. The Military is suffering as a result. In much the same way, Law Enforcement, Fire Fighters, and other Emergency Personnel - the First Responders - are a more local (and visible) cost of freedom. Here we see a mix of costs not paid - again with activists impeding on reasonable law enforcement, police who act badly giving rise to doubt by their protected, and the inability of local politicians to keep these vital services properly funded. But this is only the surface. Below the surface, a far great cost of freedom maintenance remains significantly underpaid. The citizenry writ large refuses to do its job. They either elect charlatans and frauds into political office, or don't bother to participate at all. This ensures that the loudest - not necessarily the wisest or most qualified - get their way. We see this at all levels of political life; the laws and policies we must live under reflect such neglect. Peeling one level lower - in our job sites and other organizations and groups - this same abuse of localized power manifests daily. Employers mistreating their talent. Local organizations and groups are "led" by recurring cabals that cannot or will not be removed from their mini-fiefdoms. People treating other people badly to gain advantage or wield some sort of control. Frankly, it is becoming a depressing activity to read even local news, for the nonstop drumbeat of bad behavior. Maintaining freedom is the part that is always most difficult. I remember the scene in the HBO series "John Adams" as the delegates vote to ratify the Declaration of Independence. Gaunt faces are displayed on these men as the votes are tallied and they realize that this, as hard fought as it was to craft, was really the easy part. Likewise, after the surrender of British forces at Yorktown and the work to build this new government began, the real cost of freedom is seen - making the system work. That's why the real test was not the First President, but the Second. You, each where you sit or stand, have the chance to pay part of the that maintenance cost each day. Understand the issues, vote, ask fair minded questions. Those who lead should do so with care and empathy. Those who have advantage should seek to lift up others not hold them back. Understand why what occurred 240 years ago was necessary then, and that the spirit of that is still needed today. We still are the "Shining City on the Hill" and it takes all of use to do the work necessary to keep it shining. As you celebrate our 240th year of Independence - and well you should! - remember that the easy part was declaring it. More difficult was (re)gaining it. Most difficult is keeping it. I ask that you focus your energies on what you can do to maintain freedom - for that is certainly not without fee.