It’s a time of marching bands, waving flags, gathering family and friends close, eating and drinking all kinds of delights, laughing, talking, hugging, sharing pleasant thoughts, and capping it all with cloud-brushing, soaring multicolored flashes of fireworks, lighting the night sky with the oohs and aahs of crowds across the nation.
It’s a holiday from work in a ritual that celebrates our best qualities as a people.
It evokes the language of the declaration hammered out in a hot Philadelphia Hall, striking and revising the words of Thomas Jefferson with phrases refined to define who we were and what we were undertaking.
We should reflect upon the sentiments of this grand occasion, and how we may fulfill them today – in our day and time.
We declared that “all men are created equal,” and we’ve struggled to perfect that sentiment ever since, and we’ve made great strides, but like all great and historic undertakings, there remains more to be done – and now is the time to do it.
We believe that every person has a right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and many enjoy these rights but not all; that must be part of the unfinished work of our nation, to make our aspiration a reality for all men and women.
We protested in our declaration any form of government destructive of our effort to secure these rights. There’s plenty wrong with our government. We must each of us, however, reflect on how we can improve our government as voters, leaders and public officials, as life casts each person’s participation, however slight or critical, according to individual ability, inclination and time, in our ever perfecting independence.
We should respect the notion that “prudence” does dictate that “governments long established,” as ours has now been, “should not be changed for light and transient causes,” although some may, from time to time, talk about eliminating this or that department of government.
Nor should we dispose ourselves to suffer or to allow others to suffer those who do not enjoy the rights we set as our nation’s objective.
Our Declaration of Independence was an indictment of oppressive rule.
Our worst criticisms of our own government pale when compared with the abuses the colonies suffered under the dominion of Great Britain.
As the memory of this Fourth of July and its last rocket bursting in air fades from sight and sense, we should rededicate ourselves not just to noting what’s wrong with America, as human nature so easily finds the defects, but what we may do to make what was wrong right and put our shoulders to the effort.
Our character as a nation, our cultural DNA, is of rugged independence, as lovers of freedom, with a can-do spirit, and an extended hand to help others on a journey, still underway, to secure for every person the rights that we declared paramount, the rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”