Happy Fourth of July. The United States of America turns 248 years old today.
It’s a day to celebrate the wisdom of our founders. They created a government for the two million people in the original 13 colonies in 1776 that now serves more than 300 million people.
And to bring it to life, they stood up to the most powerful nation in the world. It’s difficult to overstate that remarkable achievement.
Imagine the months of heated debate and eventual compromises necessary to create a brand new system of government that is idealistic about equality and self-government, and realistic about human nature and the need to limit and disperse government power and authority.
As their first step toward becoming a sovereign nation, they wrote and signed a Declaration of Independence because, as Thomas Jefferson wrote, “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another ... a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
And so, they declared, “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.”
It took courageous people to make such bold statements and to create a government based on self-determination. Individual liberty and independence were radical philosophies in the 18th Century.
It’s hard to imagine today’s Congress achieving anything of such significance. Although the basic design of our democracy endures, it’s been battered by the influx of big money in politics, partisanship, apathy and civic illiteracy.
It’s sad, compared to our magnificent beginnings.
So, in these troubled times around the world, as people in many nations struggle to achieve the freedoms modern Americans sometimes take for granted, let us remember that the responsibility is on our shoulders to ensure that the United States of America continues to be the longest-lasting and most successful democracy in history.
So whether you are hosting back yard barbecues, playing family softball games or heading down to Tumwater for the grand fireworks display, let’s celebrate the great nation given to us by our founding fathers but also commit to active and constructive civic engagement.
Our 248th birthday wish is for less extremism, anger, apathy and cynicism, and more kindness, civility, and shared dedication to the goal of sustaining a democracy that can endure and prosper for many generations to come.