Let us celebrate America by clinging to its principles 

Many words will be spoken today about the freedom we enjoy as Americans and how we all need to remain vigilant to protect them. The language will often be strong and fiery. Sometimes it will be sweet and poetic.

It’s good for all of us today to put into our own words what it means to be an American.

But the only words that really matter today — and those that truly serve as the foundation for our country’s existence — are these that were written in the summer of 1776 as war was raging between Great Britain and the American colonies. They represent the opening salvo in a statement of principles that have guided this country through the generations.

“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.”

— The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

As we engross ourselves in holiday activities today and celebrate Independence Day in honor of our country’s founding, we should pause a moment to feel pride at what the founders created.

The actions of that group changed the world. And it wasn’t easy. It did not happen suddenly or in a vacuum. The representatives had varying, often conflicting views of how their new country should be formed and how their founding principles should be applied. They agreed on the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They did not agree on the issue of slavery. In fact, a dispute over how the slavery issue would be handled in the Declaration almost scuttled its adoption. Mention of it had to be stricken from the document before it could be approved.

The great American experiment has never been easy.

But it has survived. And with attention to common goals and principles, it will continue to survive.

America’s democratic principles are no easier to apply now than they were in its early days. But it’s always worth the effort. Let’s remember these principles: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Happy Birthday, America. May your future be as bright as your past.

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