The grill is fired up and ready for the hamburgers and hot dogs. The fireworks are set and only await the evening sky to show off their colorful and eye-popping display. It’s the biggest birthday party of the year and it is today: July 4 – Independence Day – the official birthday of the United States.
While the day is a festive occasion, we would urge people not to lose sight of what Independence Day means. In 1776, a band of forward-thinking men wrote a document that took this country on a path fraught with perils, and on one that had not been traveled before – an independent and democratic country where citizens did not have to bow down to a king or European aristocracy, or to a particular religion. It took nearly eight years of bloody war and nearly another seven of wrangling between a loose knit, but extremely independent group of states before the United States emerged. Thus began what has been called “the great experiment in Democracy.”
It is obvious that not everyone was considered by those founding fathers as worthy of democracy. Certainly women were not included in the Declaration of Independence’s most famous statement “All men are created equal.” The majority of black people who were residents of the country at that time were not free, but owned by someone else. Many were brought here against their will. It would take another bloody war to end that injustice. And the rights of Native Americans certainly were not high on the minds of those early Americans. What was done to both of these groups of people is still a dark stain on our past – one that should always remind us of what is possible even in a free society.
However, while many people are all too ready to remind us of the guilt of these failures – we should remember what the “experiment” envisioned by our founding fathers has given us – a country that has been a beacon to freedom-loving people everywhere, one whose citizens enjoy more freedoms than any other citizens in any other country in the world. The “experiment” is an ever-evolving project. It has faced serious problems, problems that have fractured many other nations. We have our own at this time. We have persevered in the past; we will persevere today. The gift our founding fathers gave us is a government capable of meeting – and solving – those problems.