The following opinion piece appeared in today’s edition of the South Bend Tribune, and I want to share it with you.
"Born on the Fourth of July
American children learn early that our nation celebrates its birthday on the Fourth of July.
One of the first chapters of United States history they're taught is that the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, approved wording of the Declaration of Independence, establishing our sovereignty and separation from British rule. It was the first document that officially named our country as the United States of America.
These schoolroom lessons are so ingrained, that even as adults it is sometimes easy for Americans to ignore the complexities and tensions that forged the new republic.
The country already was a diverse place in the late 18th century. Most colonists had descended from parts of the British Empire, but African Americans, both slave and free, American Indians, and other Europeans of various cultures and religions were here, too.
The economy was in flux. Despite cheap land and abundant resources, the imperial taxes Great Britain imposed on manufactured goods from Europe strained commerce.
Colonists were divided over the country's future, and the militia was already at war.
The country's leaders, however, introduced new ways of thinking about the challenges of the New World. Their ideas, in fact, were revolutionary.
The basic values of the new republic they enshrined in the Declaration of Independence not only laid the foundation for our great country, but have inspired hundreds of similar declarations of rights in countries the world over.
July Fourth, though, is not just a day for reflection on the nation's enduring struggles to ensure the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
In 1777, citizens marked the nation's first birthday with an official dinner for the Continental Congress, toasts, 13-gun salutes, speeches, prayers, music, parades and fireworks. The tradition is one that Americans are happy to continue.
Designation as a federal holiday means that many workers here and throughout the country have an extra day off work to enjoy the beginning of high summer.
Families and friends are sure to enjoy outdoor fun and picnics this weekend.
Communities throughout our area are celebrating July Fourth, as usual, with loads of activities, including parades, festivals and fireworks.
We recommend taking the time to read the Declaration as part of your celebration. How many of us would have had the courage to sign that document?"
Here is a link if you want to read the Declaration:
This is an important message and the question raised is one that I am certain many American citizens have asked themselves in recent weeks. Hopefully, we all will remember that question come the next election in November, 2010. God Bless America.