Reflections on July 4th: We owe our ancestors a debt of gratitude Print
Thursday, Jul. 02, 2009 -- 12:00 AM
  editor's view

Many of us celebrate the July 4th holiday with family picnics or other fun activities. I imagine few of us take time to reflect on the meaning of this holiday and its significance in our lives.

However, with news reports about the recent political upheaval in Iran, I began thinking how lucky we are to live in the United States of America. We owe our freedom and democratic system of government to the earliest Americans. They had to fight to establish this country -- and we should fight (not necessarily in the physical sense) to preserve the freedoms they gained for us.

Declaration of Independence rings true

In reading the Declaration of Independence again, I am amazed at how its words still ring true today: "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, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

It is especially wonderful to see that our ancestors recognized that all people are created by God. We often seem to emphasize the equality part of the Declaration, while not remembering the "created" part of that statement.

Also first on the list of rights is life, with liberty and happiness coming next. I think it's obvious that many people in our time put life last on the list -- with liberty and happiness taking precedence. We need to remind our fellow citizens that our country's founders had the correct set of priorities!

Importance of citizen involvement

The Declaration of Independence also reminds us of the importance of citizen involvement in our government. The government, it stresses, derives its powers from the consent of the governed -- that's us, the citizens and voters. We've got to exercise our responsibilities to participate in the political process, to be involved with our legislative bodies, and to exercise our right to vote.

We also have to hold our elected officials accountable for the safety and happiness of all people in our society. That means caring for the unborn, the sick, the poor, the elderly, the handicapped, and all the vulnerable among us.

Yes, we owe our ancestors a debt of gratitude for their courage and wisdom in establishing this great nation. Now we can repay that debt by ensuring that we live up to the principles they established and make sure that future generations will continue to enjoy living in this great nation.