I have always been fascinated with U.S. history and minored in it at college. Of all the periods that intrigue me, perhaps the one that fascinates me the most is the period of the American Revolution. It is amazing the character and fortitude of the men and women who founded our country and fought against the world superpower of their day. As we come upon the fourth of July, we often will have a day filled with family, BBQ and fireworks. I have plans that involve each of those items on that day and will begin marinating the pork shoulder for the smoker on Tuesday evening. I do think it is valuable to pause, and take time to reflect on the significance of the day.
This year, I took some time to reread the Declaration of Independence. Some today will scoff at the Declaration or the Constitution, saying that these are overly simplistic frameworks for government in such a complex society that we have today. I strongly disagree. Our founders realized certain truths that are built inside of all people, regardless if they live in the horse-and-buggy or the space shuttle era. They considered these truths to be “self-evident”, meaning that they did not require a lawyer or philosopher to argue their merit.
“…all men are created equal…” This flew into the face of a society that was based on a hierarchical structure of a royal, ruling class and the rest of us. Everyone is equal under the sun. In the credit union world, we count every member the same. It does not matter if it is a struggling college student or the successful, wealthy business owner. All are members and are entitled to the same representation.
“…that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life…” The founders acknowledge everyone has the same right to live: the young and the old, the sick and the healthy, the rich and the poor, those who have made their mark in the world and those who are anonymous.
“…Liberty…” All people are born to be free. Our founders threw off the oppressive government of Great Britain. This was not an easy decision, for they had to give up the security of being under the world’s most powerful nation to being on their own. This is a struggle we see today with some wanting to live in the safety of a strong government. Benjamin Franklin saw it different when he said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Thomas Jefferson, the writer of the Declaration said, “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.”
“…the Pursuit of Happiness.” The founders state here that people are allowed to follow their dreams. This is one of the principles that has made our country achieve more than any other country in history. Think of the things we have each day because people have refused to accept the normal status quo and have achieved their dreams. We take for granted things like the light bulb, computers, cars, air conditioning, baseball and good BBQ. All these came because people followed their dreams.
The Declaration ends stating the signers were pledging their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor”. Many of them and countless others have sacrificed so much in order for us to be free. So on this Independence Day, before you take time to light fireworks or sink your teeth into the smoked pulled pork, take some time to reflect and be thankful for our country and those who have sacrificed so much for it.