It’s the 4th of July – more properly known as Independence Day.
For many of us, this is the day for cooking out, going to the pool or beach, and watching fireworks. As someone who enjoys all those things, I have no problem with celebrating the holiday in these ways. A great way to celebrate our freedom is to do what you want (as long as you don’t hurt anyone else).
Prior to packing the beach bag or getting out hamburgers for the grill, however, it would also be good to take a few minutes to read the Declaration of Independence. This document succinctly sums up the American creed. Its opening paragraphs encapsulate what it means to be an American better than any other writing or speech that I know of:
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
Reading these words, we can dimly grasp the momentous achievements accomplished by the Founding Generation. They risked their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to break away from Great Britain and form a nation based on the idea that all men should have equal rights.
Every resident of this nation should periodically read this document and think about its meaning. There isn’t a better time to do it than today.