Today, on the Fourth of July, our nation commemorates the Declaration of Independence. Written in 1776 by founding fathers Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Sherman, and Livingston, the Declaration of Independence severed ties between the 13 American colonies and Great Britain. Fifty six congressional delegates bravely validated the statement of grievances by signing their names to what President Lincoln would later call “a rebuke and a stumbling-block to tyranny and oppression.”
Today, people around the world still look to the Declaration of Independence for inspiration in the face of oppressive, tyrannical government. But it was what followed the signing of the Declaration of Independence that established this new republic as truly independent and capable of self-governance.
With the Revolutionary War, our young nation broke forth onto the world stage. Our founding fathers gave philosophical credence to the right of revolution, should an empire, kingdom or democracy become tyrannical beyond repair. Under strong leadership like Gen. Washington, American revolutionaries fought to defeat Britain’s military might. As the direct descendant of men who fought bravely in the American Revolution, I am grateful for all those who caught the vision of a new kind of nation, sovereign under God, where all people, born with inalienable rights, could live freely within the framework of the rule of law. Each generation must strive to make this a reality for every person living in the United States of America.
Once the war was won, our founding fathers turned to the hard work of establishing a government set on democratic principles. We needed a framework to put into practice our lofty principles. Declaring independence and revolting are one thing. Creating a sustainable, representative government is quite another.
In my opinion, the most defining aspect of the success of the American Revolution, despite it’s explicit hypocrisies, was the time granted to the revolutionaries before, during, and after the fighting to work out a constitution. The Constitution of the United States of America, ratified in 1787, is the longest-lasting codified constitution in the world by far. I owe this to the founders’ thoughtfulness, to their ability to bring diverse people under one rule of law, and to foster a respect for that rule of law within its constituency throughout our history.
We hear the cries of those who feel disenfranchised within our land. But I urge you, young and old, left and right, fellow Americans from every racial and ethnic background — help the system by participating in the system. One of our greatest strengths is our diversity. If you feel anyone is preventing you access, make that known, but do not burn down the building within which we are all housed.
Every generation gets the chance to set the course for our nation’s future. We can and should strive to improve the system. How? By insisting on the rule of law, upholding the inalienable rights of all, fighting for the rights of others (especially with those whom you disagree), working for liberty and justice for all, getting involved in your community, studying and teaching civics to the next generation, and by voting.
I am filled with hope for our great nation and look forward to its greatest days ahead.
Happy Independence Day!
Bonnie Lee and Alex Lee