On July 4, 1776, delegates from the 13 American colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, a document that stated their desire to form a new nation based on personal liberty rather than subservience to the British monarchy. Today, we designate each July 4th as Independence Day, in recognition of the ideals those delegates embraced
While we recognize that many of the people we think of as our Founding Fathers were flawed human beings who did not always make choices that were consistent with their words, they did much to supply our new nation with the seeds of greatness. It has since been up to us to nurture those seeds of greatness while vigilantly weeding out the ideas and institutions that would infringe on our fellow Americans’ right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
“We the people” have spent the last 244 years fighting for that bedrock ideal, for what is meant to be the birthright of every single American citizen—regardless of race, creed, religion, national origin, or any other qualifier. Although we still have much to improve upon, we have also made enormous progress. No other country on Earth currently provides so many freedoms and opportunities to such a large and diverse population. That is a truth we should celebrate and be grateful for, even as we strive to better ourselves for future generations.
Perhaps the best way to sum up all that is good and worth preserving about our nation is in returning to the words of some of the most influential figures in American history.
“I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong.
If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
— George Washington
“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 price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”
— Thomas Jefferson
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
— Abraham Lincoln
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”
— Harriet Tubman
“The life of a nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.
A smile or a tear has no nationality; joy and sorrow speak alike to all nations, and they, above all the confusion of tongues, proclaim the brotherhood of man.”
— Frederick Douglass
“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”
— Dwight D. Eisenhower
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty.”
— John F. Kennedy
“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free... so other people would be also free.”
— Rosa Parks
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
— Ronald Reagan