On July 2, 1776, John Adams wrote his wife Abigail that the date would be “celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival” and that the celebration would include bonfires, sports, fireworks and a spirit of liberty throughout the land.
What Adams did not know was that although the date of his anticipated celebration was slightly off, his predictions of a great anniversary festival ring true today.
Although the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, the actual vote for independence took place two days earlier.
Like Adams, many of the Founding Fathers had a vision for the working document that later would be known as the Declaration of Independence.
The Declaration itself has become one of the most admired and copied political documents of all time. It was written by Thomas Jefferson and revised by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Jefferson.
As the United States of America celebrates its 236th birthday this year, we as citizens should remember how this great nation was founded and take a moment to celebrate and embrace the goodness that makes us great.
French writer and politician Alexis de Tocqueville noted more than a century ago:
“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in the fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there; in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good - and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
Tocqueville always saw America as a great nation. Although our economic situation and our failed policies of today make it hard to see why our nation is so great, we must look to the vision of our founders and see how far we have come. We must realize how truly blessed we are to be part of a nation that allows for many freedoms.
The question we, as Americans, need to ponder this Independence Day is what the Founding Fathers really wanted for America.
If more Americans pondered this simple question every year, we would have a better understanding of why our nation and the men who founded it remain great across the world’s globe.
We also must keep in mind that the founders’ vision was not for a welfare state reliant upon the government. The founders wanted nothing to do with anything resembling a monarchy. Power was not to be given to one entity to rule over the rest of the country. What the founders envisioned was a limited government that would provide essential services to the people, but most decisions would be for the people to decide for themselves. If the founders saw the size and shape of our current government and how much it taxes us, they probably would be rolling in their graves.
In keeping with the founders’ vision, we should not wait for the government to act; we must take initiative. We must understand that it is up to us to change for the better. We cannot rely on government to make things right or force us to be good. Government alone cannot produce good people. We must take responsibility for ourselves.
Despite the problems that have befallen our nation, our nation is great because of its people.
July 4th is a day to celebrate the generations of men and women who have sacrificed their time, energy and often their lives to build a better country. Even if we are not 100 percent satisfied with the direction in which our country is headed, this is an opportunity to reflect upon the deeds of our Founding Fathers and to consider the means by which we might continue to guard those essential freedoms that we associate with happiness.
More than two centuries ago, these men risked their lives, their families and their homes to create conditions by which every American has a chance to better himself, to determine his own fate, to pursue happiness on his own terms and, most important, simply to be left alone. These “ultimate patriots” challenged the status quo.
There are still ultimate patriots who survive today. We see that in the brave soldiers who risk everything to secure freedom abroad. But we also see it in the everyday Americans who revel in the everyday joys and responsibilities of raising a family.
As we witness the constant struggles of many countries, and with due respect to our allies and enemies, the United States of America is still a great nation. However, we need to work to keep it the great nation that our founders intended it to be.
In the true spirit of Adams‘ vision, celebrate our great nation! Fire up the grill, go to the beach, revel in patriotism and enjoy the spirit of liberty. But also take some time out to reflect upon the deeds of our Founding Fathers, who started our freedoms, as well as the men and women who enable us to continue to live out the essential freedoms Adams and the founders envisioned years ago.
• Armstrong Williams is on Sirius/XM Power 169 from 7 to 8 p.m. and 4 to 5 a.m. Mondays through Fridays. Become a fan on Facebook at facebook.com/arightside, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/arightside.