July 3, 2009
Here it is, another Fourth of July. Traditionally, this is a day to gather with friends, maybe fire up the barbeque and play with kids until the sun sets and the fireworks start. But in thinking back on the meaning behind this day, we must never forget that our nation was baptized in the blaze of a very different kind of "fireworks." Yes, this is a day of rest and relaxation, as well it should be, but this year…I'd like to ask you a favor. At some point during the day, I hope you'll take time to think and reflect on what it is we're truly celebrating on the 4th of July -- our Independence Day. Of course the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th, 1776 but it's so much more than that. On this day, 233 short years ago, a small group of men dedicated themselves to a higher purpose, an ideal they believed in so greatly, they signed their name to its expression and in doing so put their very lives at risk.
Never has a simple act of signing one's name carried such weight, such a profound commitment. By signing the Declaration of Independence, 56 men stood in direct defiance of the British government. They became marked men, and willingly so. As I was doing some research on the significance of July 4th, I came across some interesting facts about these men. Today as we all enjoy the freedom our forefathers guaranteed us, join me in honoring the extraordinary sacrifice of 56 extraordinary Americans.
Of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence:
Five were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes burned to the ground. Two lost sons serving in the Revolutionary Army, and two more had sons captured. Nine fought and died in the Revolutionary War.
If you ever feel like your lone voice can never be heard, that the political system isn't set up for "regular" Americans to change the course of history, remember: The signers were flesh and blood, mortal men with a divinely-inspired aim.
Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists, eleven were merchants, and nine were farmers and large plantation owners. They were well educated, smart enough to know that by signing the Declaration of Independence, they were signing their own death warrants. They did it anyway, and God bless them for it.
As we enjoy our liberty on this 4th of July, or any day of any month, we must never take that liberty for granted. Too many have given too much. In the words of the Signers themselves, "For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."
Their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor -- I think that's a price paid worth a few minutes of reflection, don't you? But let's not be solemn in that reflection. I say rejoice and share this information with your friends and family, especially your kids. The Signers asked for nothing in return for their pledge, but I say that we show our thanks with a pledge of our own: To remember, to be grateful, and to carry on in their spirit. America is the greatest country this world has ever and will ever know, and it will stay that way so long as "we the people" remember that just like in 1776.
It's US that surrounds them, and we'll never back down.
Happy Independence Day, and God bless America.