Happy Fourth of July!
For those of you who read this blog and aren’t from the United States or familiar with our history, the Fourth of July is the day we celebrate the creation of our nation. July 4, 1776 is the day that the delegates to the Continental Congress voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence, setting forth the grounds for our choice to become our own country.
The Declaration of Independence is one of the two most important founding documents in our country. (The other is the Constitution, adopted in its original form in 1787.) It was written by Thomas Jefferson, and approved by a committee appointed by the Continental Congress, which included John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. FN.
The Declaration of Independence is a masterpiece of prose and a cornerstone of political theory. It contains the grandest sentence ever written in American literature.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The men who adopted this document were not angels, not perfect, not supermen. No women or minorities were at the convention, and there were men among them who were slave-owners, among them Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. But these men understood that people had the right to be governed with their consent, and understood that, at the end of the day, all humankind is entitled to certain fundamental rights that should not be stripped from them. They were men who stood to lose everything if they lost the war for independence, and they came very close to doing so. The fact that our nation survived the next six months is a miracle. (Read David McCullough’s 1776, and you will understand why.)
How many of us lately have had to put everything on the line for our beliefs, our lives, our property, our families’ welfare? We honor the members of the military who have chosen to do so and marvel at the fact that they are volunteers. The fact that we don’t have to is owed in part to these first few men who had the vision and the courage to adopt the document to start the nation whose birth we celebrate today.
Our nation is not, and has never been, perfect. It can’t be, because no person is perfect and our government is governed by people. But we never give up the quest for perfection, sometimes improving in leaps and bounds, sometimes starting to lag a little bit behind, but always, ultimately, based upon the hopes and dreams of the entire populace, moving forward just a little bit more.
Please have a good time today; enjoy your barbecue time, your family celebrations and your fireworks. But also please take a small moment of time to think about what it is to be an American, what our nation stands for and how we who are Americans can help it to move forward and thank God for the great gifts he has given to us. Then this holiday will not only be a good Fourth of July for you and your family, but for our whole country also.
Have a great day everyone!
FN. John Adams was a key player in getting the Continental Congress to declare independence, and the second president of the United States. David McCullough has written an excellent biography of him that is worth reading, and HBO did a mini-series on his life that also was excellent. I am going to make the rash assumption that Benjamin Franklin needs no introduction, but Walter Isaacson wrote a very good biography of him also.