October 21, 2014

Foundations of freedom

7/2/13

The Fourth of July has come around again, which means it’s time to bust out the sparklers, fireworks and kick back by the bonfire. I love this time of year because the flowers are blooming, the days are perfectly warm and the fireflies come out at night. There is nothing better than feeling the freedom of summer.

In summer, I am comfortable outside with a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops. This is the main reason I dislike winter — because I am constrained to my house unless I want to bundle up and brave the cold. The freedom of summer is liberating.

But while I’m enjoying summer’s greatness, I can’t help but think about the freedom that we as a nation celebrate, especially this time of the year.

On one of my visits to Washington, D.C., I went to the National Archives, which houses our nation’s Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights among numerous other important documents. What struck me the most was seeing the old parchment of the original Declaration of Independence. By now, the words are barely visible and the paper looks extremely fragile.

I had seen reproductions of it before and had an idea of what it looked like, but it didn’t look the same as in “National Treasure.” I was so close that I could almost touch the document that was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, officially breaking all ties with Great Britain.

I was barely able to make out the faded signatures of John Hancock, John Adams and others who all risked being found guilty of treason to create a free nation for their children.

It made me wonder how something as monumental as beginning a revolution and later creating and implementing a new government could have been carried out successfully. Our fledgling nation had little chance of survival, but here we all are today, still celebrating our independence.

It was an experiment.

The founders were driven by their desire to live free of the chains of oppression. It’s probably safe to say that they knew what they were doing had never been done successfully before.

These documents changed the history of the world. Not just figuratively, but literally. America became a model for democracy, and today, despite the comparatively small problems that face our nation, in the larger picture we can celebrate some of the greatest freedoms in the world.

Since that time in 1776, it has been a bumpy road for many. We’ve fought hard to keep our freedoms with wars on our own soil and abroad, fought for change throughout history here at home, and have had to modify our system of government. But looking back, the Founding Fathers knew what they were doing. They may not have had everything exactly right, but the principles of freedom, liberty and justice that they valued, we still value today.

So this Independence Day, as I am celebrating the freedoms that summer brings, I think it’s important to remember that the Fourth of July isn’t just about eating hot dogs, watching the parades and setting off fireworks. It’s about the challenges our nation has faced, the obstacles we have overcome and the bravery of a group of individuals who sought to create a country built on the footings of freedom.

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