Most of us have just celebrated the 4th of July. We were all outside with the barbeque, grilling hamburgers and hot dogs. There were parades with marching bands, scout troops and cute little kids. In a lot of places, fireworks painted vibrant colors in the evening sky. It might have been a bit more subdued this post-pandemic year, but Americana is at its brightest and its finest on the 4th.
The 4th of July is my favorite holiday. It’s always warm, but I appreciate the 4th for reasons other than the weather, the parades and backyard grills. It’s a day to savor how well this experiment of ours has worked for the last 245 years. The declaration our founders signed on that day has brought us the highest standard of living in the world, advanced medical care and the wherewithal to free millions of people from despots in two world wars. And today, it still serves as a beacon of hope to millions around the world.
In the history of mankind, that’s new. Over the centuries, poverty, hardship, misery and enslavement were the companions of most inhabitants on this earth. A local chief, king, or dictator ruled, and ruled with a very heavy fist. Over the centuries, slavery was not only accepted but a common practice. In the middle ages, when the Feudal Lord told you to “go to war” you went to war or your family starved. Even as recently as 100 years ago, outbreaks of Polio, Spanish Flu and Diphtheria were common.
We owe our wealth, health and freedom to those founding fathers that dared to create a revolutionary document whose most important sentence is “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…”.
There are three things I remember on the 4th of July. The first is what a revolutionary idea our country is. Never in the history of mankind had a group of people come together to govern themselves. It was a grand experiment whose results couldn’t be known.
Secondly, the courage it took for those founders to sign that document. Every signer knew that if the republic failed, their families, their wealth and their very lives would be sacrificed as King George would surely hang them. That’s why the last sentence reads, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
Even more importantly, I want to remember how the signers pledged themselves to an ideal, a universal principle above English law and above any law that might be forthcoming. It was an act of obedience to the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” It was a pledge to self-evident principles such as “all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”
It’s an incredible document and an incredible experiment.
Happy Birthday, America!