July 4, 2012. Independence Day. Two hundred thirty-six years ago is the date fixed atop the Declaration of Independence, and with its signing and affirmation by Congress a nation was born. The famous opening sentence and first half of the preamble are shown below.
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Independence Day is marked with celebrations: with fireworks, barbecue, baseball, swimming, and time with family and friends. It has become a festive occasion that generally marks the halfway point of summer. It is a good reason to combine vacation days with the holiday and take some time off work.
We can celebrate because our founding fathers believed that the oppression of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness went against their most sacred principles. They believed that God granted these rights in every man and that the British government was taking them away. When they felt that these were in jeopardy, they knew it was time to split off from England.
But independence wasn’t won merely through the signing of this document. It was achieved only after the Revolutionary War was won in a bloody battle between America and England. Volunteer armies and militias believed enough in the cause to leave families and lay down their lives for this freedom.
Notice that we are not guaranteed happiness, merely the right to pursue happiness. Happiness cannot be provided in a government program or in a handout. The primary reason is that happiness looks different for each and every person. The government, therefore, cannot be in the business of providing happiness – we are granted the right to pursue happiness by God and the government’s job is to ensure that right is not inhibited. The independence we have is the ability to define what happiness looks like for us and pursue that to the degree that we feel compelled.
So with freedom comes responsibility. Responsibility for each and every citizen of this land to uphold and defend these rights. Responsibility to adhere to the laws and support our leadership. Responsibility to vote and be involved, and if necessary to challenge or alter the government as it sits today. America will remain the greatest country on earth as long as Americans will be the greatest people on earth. And part of being great is taking responsibility.
But if enough people succumb to the notion that either the government or someone else is responsible for their happiness, then we will ultimately fall. It is at that point that we slip into dependence, and not independence. And that’s a dangerous place to be.
Application Question – What things will you do today, to make a difference, that others will celebrate in years to come? Are you willing to sacrifice deeply for your principles and for this pursuit? Do you believe in these certain unalienable rights, and do your children see this in your actions?
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