Each year, Americans celebrate the independence of our nation on July 4, remembering the conflicts and patriots who died to preserve our ideals.
This week, we will again remember those men and women and gather with family under the sheltering umbrella of the United States of America.
But let us remember more.
Let us remember what inspired the Declaration of Independence and united our forefathers as a single nation to stand against the British Empire.
On that first Independence Day, our fledgling nation had no war or sacrificing soldiers to remember and honor. Instead, they were looking ahead, willing to commit to a fight to secure freedom not from a foreign power but from domestic tyranny.
“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,” wrote Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence that was signed by the Continental Congress in 1776.
Those words continue to ignite passion among Americans today. Over the following centuries, we have made gains to ensure “all men are created equal,” and we call upon that truth as we continue to discover injustices in our system.
The great message and hope of the founders’ cry for freedom was later explained by President Abraham Lincoln as “a government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
Fifty years after the passage of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote in a letter that the nation’s document is “the signal of arousing men to burst the chains …to assume the blessings and security of self-government” and to restore “the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion.”
But to be a nation of people able to assume the blessings and securities of self-government, we must have free access to information often controlled by our government and its bureaucracies.
To be uninformed is to be robbed of our right to self-government and democracy.
Jefferson knew the freedoms exalted by the Declaration of Independence were not created by ink on paper, but by citizens who stood to break the chains and demand freedom and a responsive government.
We must continue to exercise our rights of reason and opinion today, demanding responsive and open government locally and nationally, or apathy will devour those freedoms that we celebrate and soldiers have died to protect.