"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. ..."
These words, written by Thomas Jefferson and signed by 55 of his fellow colonists on July 4, 1776, represent the framework on which this nation was built and are the reason we'll gather together this weekend to celebrate our freedom.
Later documents, including the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, laid out the rights all citizens of this nation should be entitled to and set up a system of democratic government that has served as a model to the rest of the world for more than two centuries.
The Declaration of Independence is notable in that it simply states that when people feel their government is subjugating them to unfair burdens or not adequately representing them, the people have the right as equals to stand up for themselves and govern themselves.
It's a principle that's guided the course of this nation through changes that have led to infinitely better standards of living, education, technology and health not only here in the United States, but throughout the rest of the world. Despite the numerous threats to peace and freedom that still haunt the globe, it's hard to argue that citizens of the world as a whole don't have more freedoms and rights than at any time in recorded history.
This movement toward freedom and equality did not begin with the signers of the Declaration of Independence; nor, as history has shown us, were all of these men themselves perfect examples of tolerance and benevolence toward others. However, the democratic form of government which the framers adopted has proven to be a model which most of the world now follows. For that, we as citizens of both this nation and this planet owe a debt of gratitude.
In spite of the many political and social disagreements which have tugged at our national unity in recent years, it's hard to argue against the principles of freedom, democracy and the right of people to freely pursue their dreams. The specifics of our individual political beliefs should not lead us into conflicts on a day like Independence Day. Instead, let's treat the Fourth of July with the honor it deserves as the day when the founders of this movement stood up for themselves and everyone else and declared that the ability to freely express oneself should be the highest ideal which mankind can strive for.
That sounds like a pretty good reason to celebrate.
Happy Fourth of July!
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