The nationwide celebrations on July 4th focusing on our nation’s birth and rich history were especially meaningful this year. On July 2, 1776, 237 years ago, the Continental Congress unanimously approved our independence. Two days later, on July 4, 1776, the document was amended and adopted declaring the 13 American colonies as independent states. The Constitution begins with these words:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Thus the United States of America was created. Often referred to as one of “the most potent and consequential words in American history,” Thomas Jefferson penned these words when the 48 delegates from the 13 colonies declared their independence:
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.
It took great courage for our forefathers to make this declaration. They had to realize the consequences of what they were doing and yet forged ahead. It’s an absolute necessity that we all continue to work daily to protect the precious rights and individual obligations we were all given. In spite of all of the trials and tribulations that come with a form of government such as ours, we have prevailed.
The United States of America has experienced, through the years, a bloody and lengthy civil war, a major depression, racial prejudices, riots, violent storms, political unrest, presidential assassinations, two world wars, other wars of even greater magnitude, 9/11 and the list goes on. Yet, even with all of this, we have survived as a nation. But I have to wonder what the signers of the Declaration of Independence would think about the state of affairs in the country they founded today if they were still around. For starters, they would see a nation as badly divided politically as it has ever been, an economy that is still struggling, cities and countries in bankruptcy, and politicians who put their own personal interests above those of the people they are elected to represent.
Even so, I believe men like Thomas Jefferson would find a silver lining among all the very dark clouds. That’s because the American people will eventually demand that our leaders “wake up,” see the “light” and start doing the “right thing.” The common interest must prevail over the special interest.
America is still the home of the free and the land of the brave. But until “these rights” guaranteed by our Constitution and Bill of Rights are in fact inalienable for all, we will never be the nation that we should be. We still have a long way to go. Hopefully, the day will come – and soon – when every American citizen will be able to fully enjoy the rights and obligations that come with citizenship in the greatest country on the face of the earth.
Sources: USA Today, New York Times, Human Rights Campaign, NPR
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