The most important room in American history, one could argue, sits on the east side of what was once the Pennsylvania State House, and is now known as Independence Hall. 

A morning break between the Baptist World Alliance Executive Committee and the North American Baptist Fellowship (NABF) meetings provided just enough time to squeeze through Philadelphia’s long-running rush hour, tour Independence Hall, see the Liberty Bell, and grab a cheesesteak from a street vendor before heading north to the NABF meeting at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church (more on that later).

In Independence Hall, you can stand in the very room where Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and other early delegates to the Second Continental Congress managed the Revolutionary War effort and debated the cause of independence from England’s increasingly invasive rule. Not all of the colonies were for it, and there were so many compromises that no one was truly happy with the finished document, but eventually they agreed upon and signed a Declaration of Independence.

It was in the same room that George Washington presided over the convention that drafted the United States Constitution in 1787. The room’s two large fireplaces are cold and the candles no longer burn, but the room reeks of history as one imagines what it must have been like to sit in that smoky room as carts rattled over cobblestones outside the window and pompous delegates pontificated day after day and into the night, each trying to seem more important than the other. They were a squirrely bunch, these founding fathers, and their political descendants continue to be a contentious crew that makes nobody entirely happy, and yet we plug ahead.

For all of our quarrels and factions and layers of bureacracy, we remain not only a free people, but an advocate for freedom and justice everywhere. Standing where history was made engenders a sense of gratitude that I probably don’t feel often enough.

Let freedom ring.  

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