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What it Means to Be Free

Freedom means different things to different people and groups. What does freedom mean for people who work in the United States? How do we decide how much to value economic freedom, fair treatment, social mobility, and group power? Why is freedom hard to get in these spaces?

The basics: People with economic independence can meet their basic needs, take care of their families, and be in charge of their own money. In this situation, freedom means having access to jobs that pay well, pay fairly, have fair hours, and give you a chance to move up. But for most people, who live day to day, we see low wages, uncertain jobs, and few resources. This makes them less financially free and stops them from getting ahead in their jobs or starting their own businesses.

Fairness: Fair treatment at work and in society as a whole is a big part of being free. No matter what you do for a living or how much money you have, you should be treated with dignity, respect, and fairness. Unfortunately, people still get taken advantage of, treated unfairly, and exploited at work, which hurts their sense of freedom and makes it hard for them to move up in their careers. Many people still must work hard to get equal rights and fair treatment.

Fairness also means breaking out of social and economic cycles of poverty and moving up in life through hard work and equal opportunities. But systemic inequalities make it hard to move up in society because they make it harder to get a good education, get health care, live in an affordable place, and meet new people. Because of these things, none of us can really be free and reach our full potential.

Working together: Imagine if everyone with a promising idea could get the education, money, and help they needed to make it happen.

We should be able to work together and fight for better working conditions, pay, and benefits at our jobs. We should also be able to challenge unfair systems that hurt small businesses. Yes, work together to make the world a better place.

On July 4, think about what freedom could mean if you look at it from a broader perspective.

Reach out to a neighbor this year. Make freedom ring for me. Make freedom ring for you.

—Anjetta McQueen Thackeray


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