Even before it became a national holiday in 1941, every July 4th, across the nation, Americans celebrate Independence Day. 50 years after penning the initial Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson opined about its meaning to his friend, Richard Henry Lee.
Jefferson explained that the document’s purpose was never meant to be thoroughly original; its purpose wasn’t to articulate anything that hadn’t been said before, but to make the case for the American colonies in plain terms and persuade the world to see common sense. “It was intended to be an expression of the American mind,” Jefferson explained. He goes on to say that “[the Declaration’s] authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day.”
In this, Jefferson says something really important. That is, the Declaration, as he imagined it, was meant to reflect a concept that was a unique American innovation that remains very much alive today, that of self-government.
From slavery to segregation, exclusion acts to internment of Japanese Americans, racism to economic marginalization, our collective history has taught, and continues to teach us that the system of self-governance is far from perfect. It has also taught us that it has the capability to self-correct and learn from past mistakes. And, it also has the capability to repeat them.
For nearly two and a half centuries, our journey toward equality and freedom have never been easy. We have faced our share of struggles and setbacks and our victories have never come easy. It requires engagement, activism, and constant vigilance.
So, as we mark this holiday with tasty barbecues, fireworks, and family gatherings, let us also remember that there are important lessons here for us all. That we work to narrow our differences and embrace our shared belief that all people are created equal and that each of us, individually and collectively, have the unalienable right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
HAPPY 4th OF JULY!
(to be continued)