WASHINGTON, July 4, 2017 — The Declaration of Independence was a revolutionary step in defining the principles of a new government and establishing the basis for its right to govern. It set out new ideas about self-government, not just for the benefit of society, but for the good of the individuals as well.
The Declaration of Independence is not the law of the land—the Constitution is the basis of our laws—but it is the spirit that animates the law. The ideas within it are echoed in the Bill of Rights. Thanks to our founding fathers, we have enshrined in our fundamental law the right to vote, to complain about our government and leaders, to worship any gods we please or none. We have rights to property and privacy that nourish creativity and investment in the future.
We have extraordinary freedoms that are so natural to us that we take them for granted.
Since the birth of our nation, millions of men and women have put their lives on the line for our country, many paying with their lives for our chance to celebrate our independence as a free people.
The words of the Declaration of Independence speak for themselves.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and 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 people.”
The words “deriving their just powers from the people” emphasize the importance of taking an interest in the elected officials who represent us. Our leaders are not our masters; they are chosen to serve us, the people. We don’t send them to Washington to promote their own agendas or satisfy their personal ambitions, but to do our bidding. If they work against us, we have the right to vote them out and elect someone who will work for us.
But we can’t do that if we are uninformed, if we don’t vote, or if our interests are so narrow that we no longer care about our country.
The American flag is a big part of Fourth of July celebrations. We celebrate and display it with a zeal that baffles much of the world. But for us it is much more than just a piece of cloth or an emblem of a nation. It embodies the spirit of our nation. Its history is bound up in our history, its changes reflecting the growth of our nation. We don’t fly it just out of nationalism, as our critics claim, but out of pride for what we’ve achieved and who we are. It symbolizes the success of a government of, by and for the people.
Congress first authorized the flag on June 14, 1777. As we celebrate the Fourth, we’ll display the flag to show our pride as Americans. Let’s get those goose bumps back on our arms. Feel the pride when you hear songs like “America” (“My Country ‘Tis of Thee”), “America the Beautiful,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and for you veterans, the song that represents your branch of service. For example, if you were in the Navy it is a given that you still get those “goose bumps” when you hear “Anchors Aweigh.” Be proud and show it.
When the Declaration of Independence was published, John Adams wrote this historic letter to his wife:
“I am apt to believe that this day will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.”
Just think of the foresight, and wisdom that our founding fathers were blessed with. In addition, the personal sacrifices they made in order for us to celebrate this holiday of independence.
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