Seeing the Fourth of July differently

Tomorrow, July 4th, is the 233rd anniversary of an event that changed the world forever and brought new meaning to the dreams of men. While we all celebrate the day with parades, picnics and baseball games, do we really understand the significance of the events of July 4, 1776?

Thirteen small colonies of the most powerful nation in the world came together in common purpose. Having made all reasonable effort to properly convey their individual and collective grievances to the ruling parliament and the king without success, they took a bold and uncertain course to declare independence from that government and establish themselves as a sovereign nation. The way ahead was uncertain and dangerous. In success, the new nation would be without the protection and support of its former mother country and would be on its own. In failure, it would be doomed to retaliation from the mother country and a level of repressive control that would make the original issues seem simple annoyances. Understanding the perilous course ahead, the colonies unanimously moved ahead and thus began an experiment in political freedom and government. Without knowing the potential outcome, those courageous colonials created the basis for the greatest nation on earth and a drive for personal liberty and freedom that continues throughout the world today.

Simple words like “When in the course of human events,” “the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them” and “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” and “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Those powerful phrases and the remaining words in the Declaration of Independence sent a new and powerful message to a world ruled by kings and dictators that a new nation ruled by men and men alone was now in place in the world. The strength of the message and the dedication of those who sent it would prove, over time, to be one of the most powerful messages ever drafted by man. The very concept that men were individually endowed with rights and that men created governments to protect those rights has lived to challenge and overcome every challenge presented to it.

July 4th should be a day of deep national reflection. We should all remember and give thanks to those who had the courage to stand forward for the rights of men. We should carefully review each of the rights given to us by our Creator and make sure we are fully and properly exercising and protecting those rights. We need to reflect on the individual sacrifices made by those who not only declared us a sovereign nation, but then made the sacrifices to make and keep that nation a reality. Perhaps we also should reflect on where we are as a nation today and ask ourselves if we are doing everything we can and should to preserve what has been given to us at such a great cost to others.

In the overall scheme of our world, do we recognize that in the Declaration of Independence we find the blueprint for what the founding fathers intended we should be as a nation and as a people? Do we recognize the overwhelming concern they expressed about governments exercising unconstrained control over the lives and welfare of people? Do we recognize that issues that prompted the creation of the Declaration in 1776 are with us today in one form or another? Do we recognize that the freedom and liberty declared in 1776 remain fragile to this day and it is our responsibility to nurture and protect them just as much today as it was then?

Perhaps this July 4th we can all start a new family tradition. We can each read the Declaration of Independence and take great pride in the birth of the greatest nation on earth. And we can agree with Wendell Phillips that “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

Jack Hamilton can be reached at gradiver@wavecable.com.

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