Opinion Pieces

Never Take Freedom for Granted

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Washington, July 4, 2008 | Anna Koch (202.225.3605) | comments

On July 2, 1776, Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, signed at the time by only Charles Thompson, the Secretary of Congress, and John Hancock, the presiding officer. It is because of this that John Adams predicted that Americans would come to celebrate their Independence on July 2nd every year. However it wasn’t until two days later, on July 4, 1776, that Congress approved a revised version of the Declaration and sent it to be distributed to states and military officers. Due to the means of transportation at the time, the news of the Declaration of Independence actually took days, possibly weeks, to reach the far corners of the colonies, leaving people to celebrate on their own later in the month. One year later, Congress failed to commemorate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence until July 3rd, one day too late. So it was, that the following day, July 4, 1777, in Philadelphia, would mark the first organized celebration of American independence.  It was an elaborate, red, white and blue celebration with parades, fireworks and cannons firing thirteen times in honor of each state.

This July 4th marks the 232nd anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, declaring our official freedom from the Kingdom of Great Britain.  This year, many Americans will celebrate their day-off with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, picnics, and baseball games, without remembering the real meaning behind Independence Day. In our day-to-day lives, it is easy to take for granted the freedoms that we share as Americans. However, it is important that every American have knowledge and appreciation for the history behind our founding fathers, and recognize the diligent work and sacrifice that they made in order for Americans today to enjoy the luxury of freedom.

Unlike most other nations, our history is relatively short. America was not forged out of an ancient tribe and does not have a thousand years of common struggles bound up in our national identity.  Rather, our nation was formed around the ideas 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.” These concepts, that all individuals are equal and have rights no one can take away, are the soul of our nation.

Independence Day is a celebration of the birth of our nation, but perhaps more importantly, it should be a celebration of our common ideals.  In this age of outrageous partisanship, it seems as though we lose sight of just how much we agree.  The Declaration of Independence and its fundamental tenants of equality for all, individual liberty, and government restraint were at the time revolutionary, but today are taken for granted. 

I urge every Texan to take time this July 4th to read the Declaration of Independence and think about the unfathomable strength of our founding fathers who, after wresting independence from Great Britain, had the courage to build a nation around a populace of farmers, merchants, and other simple, ordinary people dedicated to a set of radical ideas about individual rights.

To be sure, we have fallen short of our ideals more times that we might like to admit, but every Independence Day is an opportunity for us to renew our commitment to the principles that make our nation extraordinary, and remind ourselves that there are far more important things that unite us than divide us.  I wish you all a safe and happy Independence Day.

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