Independence Day is traditionally a time to go to the beach, have backyard barbecues and close out the day watching fireworks. But this year, the celebrations won’t be as wide-spread, the beaches will be much less crowded. The limited July 4th activities may be appropriate since it provides an opportunity to pause and reflect on what the day is really about.
244 years ago, a group of agricultural colonies with a population of less than 3 million, scattered along the coast from Canada to Florida, with no army or navy, decided to declare its independence and take on the world’s greatest empire. Victory was improbable, but miraculously, the colonists won. They wrote a Constitution that enshrined the visionary ideal that free people should be able to direct their own affairs. While everyone wasn’t included – slaves remained slaves until ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, and women weren’t allowed to vote in most states until ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, it was a start.
But July 4th 1776, started it all. The Declaration of Independence declared that: “"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...” These were revolutionary sentiments. To declare all men equal, to state that human beings are born with rights granted by God and not by monarchs, and for leading citizens to risk their lives by putting all this in writing, must have seemed crazy.
Today, we should remember the truths from our Declaration of Independence, and from the Constitution, that enshrine our inherent rights. Independence Day is not just a big summer holiday -- it’s a day to celebrate our rights as a free people.