“We, the people, must make their task our own — to live up to the words of that Declaration of Independence, and secure liberty and opportunity for our own children, and for future generations,” Mr. Obama said in his weekly address.
The president, who returned to the U.S. on Tuesday night after a weeklong trip to Africa, said America is a “global defender of peace and freedom, a beacon of hope to people everywhere who cherish those ideals.”
Mr. Obama and his family celebrated the holiday by hosting a gathering on the South Lawn of the White House for about 1,200 members of the U.S. military and their families, plus some White House staff and their families.
The president and first lady Michelle Obama spoke to the crowd before the evening’s fireworks show on the Mall. They shook hands and posed with red, white and blue-clad babies for about 10 minutes. Mr. Obama noted that the day was also his daughter Malia’s 15th birthday.
“You have fought on our nation’s behalf to make the world a better, safer place,” the president told service members in his earlier address. “People in scattered corners of the world are living in peace today, free to write their own futures, because of you.”
Referring to the Founding Fathers, Mr. Obama said their push for independence 237 years ago “was a bold and tremendously brave thing to do.”
“They fought a revolution. Few would have bet on our side to win. But for the first of many times to come, America proved the doubters wrong,” Mr. Obama said.
In his own Independence Day message, House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, urged citizens to “remember above all how fortunate we are to call ourselves Americans.”
“The blessings our founders secured have given the common man and woman a chance to govern themselves and provide for their families,” Mr. Boehner said, though he added that the pursuit of freedom “has its challenges.”
“It was Jefferson himself who wrote that ‘the boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave,’” Mr. Boehner said. “We will rise above this one, if we embrace the line in Scripture that says ‘whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant.’ That is the spirit and the vision of 1776.”