“There is little that is more important for an American citizen to know than the history and traditions of his country. Without such knowledge, he stands uncertain and defenseless before the world, knowing neither where he has come from nor where he is going. With such knowledge, he is no longer alone but draws a strength far greater than his own from the cumulative experience of the past and a cumulative vision of the future.”
~ President John F. Kennedy
Independence Day, the Fourth of July or July 4th in the United States, is the annual celebration of nationhood. It commemorates the passage of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.
Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself, hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart has ne’er with in him burn’d,
At home his footsteps he has turn’d,
from wondering, on a foreign strand!
~ Sir Walter Scott, the lay of the last minstrel, 1805
No day is more important to the United States of America than Independence Day, celebrated on the Fourth of July. It honors the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It proclaims to the world that the United States is a new sovereign nation, free of Great Britain, free for all people who come here in perpetuity.
The most important words in the Declaration of Independence are in the second paragraph. There is a reason they are at the beginning.
“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.”
The Congress had voted in favor of independence from Great Britain on July 2. Still, it did not complete revising the Declaration of Independence, originally drafted by Thomas Jefferson in consultation with fellow committee members John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and William Livingston, until two days later.
On July 2nd, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later, delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson.
From 1776 to the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with festivities ranging from fireworks, parades, and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues. The Fourth of July 2023 is on Tuesday, July 4.
Of all the disciplines, the study of the folly and achievements of man is best calculated to foster the critical sense of what is permanent and meaningful amid the mass of superficial and transient questions which make up the day-to-day clamor.
~John F. Kennedy
History reminds us that, in spite of their diversity, Americans are united by an ancient and encompassing faith in progress, justice, and freedom.
~ John F. Kennedy
The Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko wrote, “Who never knew the price of happiness will not be happy.” Those in our nation who do not understand the blessing of freedom and the price past generations paid for it are likely to scorn that heritage.
Ronald Reagan, July 2, 1983
It’s easy to forget just what a revolution these Americans made. It’s easy to forget how they amazed the world and how many hopes they raised. President George Washington, in the very first Inaugural Address, warned Americans that they had a new responsibility.
He said, “… the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”
Now, you may not think of yourself or our democracy as an experiment, but look around. All over the world, millions and millions of people still live under tyranny. Their leaders claim that they’re the wave of the future, that history is on their side. And yet, their people look to us for hope. Their people look to America as the cradle of freedom, the place where the great civilized ideas of individual liberty, representative government, and the rule of law under God are realities.
Yes, these people see America as the experiment that works. And democracy works because of the physical and moral courage of individuals — some famous, others deserving of recognition.
Of course, we’re accustomed to thinking of courage during a time of war, but democracy requires political courage as well. In 1954, when he was convalescing from a painful back operation, Senator John F. Kennedy had time to think about political courage. The result was a book entitled “Profiles in Courage,” in which he wrote, “In the days ahead, only the very courageous will be able to take the hard and unpopular decisions necessary for our survival in the struggle with a powerful enemy. And only the very courageous will be able to keep alive the spirit of individualism and dissent which gave birth to this nation, nourished it as an infant, and carried it through its severest tests upon the attainment of its maturity.”
On this Fourth of July weekend, I salute those Members of the Congress who are putting the interests of America first. They’re part of a long American tradition of proving democracy’s critics wrong — of showing that we have the courage to stand up for what is right and what is necessary.
Our democratic experiment is alive and well at year 207. And with the help of the kind of political leadership and vision that we’ve seen in recent weeks, we can count on many happy returns.
Until next week, God bless you, and God bless America.