We are the most blessed of nations.
Many times, we take our blessings for granted -- as if they always have been and always will be. Big mistake, as they need care and commitment. One of our greatest blessings was believed to be worth fighting and dying for. And so on this day, July 4, we celebrate a wonderful gift -- independence -- the freedom that was valued so highly by our forefathers and Americans yesterday and today.
Through the years, our freedom has been the admiration and envy of the world beyond our shores. And it did not just happen. Many died and risked all they had to secure this gift for us. The costs were tremendous in suffering, human life and property.
When did this desire for freedom become so important to our lives? It was not just in the history of our country; it was fought and died for throughout the history of humankind. It had been written in our hearts by our creator, the natural law, the rules or body of rules of conduct inherent in our human nature, essential to human society.
In 1775, before the Revolutionary War began, Alexander Hamilton wrote, "The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments or musty records. They are written as of a sunbeam in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power."
As I write this, the temperature is soaring above 100 degrees. A glass of iced tea is just the drink to cool many of us as we swelter along with this heat. However, many years ago, tea was only one of the subjects being discussed by a group of patriots who were dismayed (as many of us are today) by the governance and taxes that should be for the good of the people, not just for individuals serving the country.
The Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson put into words what the American people believed to be "self-evident truths" regarding individual liberty. This most cherished symbol of liberty expressed the convictions held dear to the hearts and minds of our Founding Fathers. The words were to justify to the world the breaking of ties between the colonies and England. The Revolutionary War commenced and was won securing our freedom from the mother country.
After the war, in 1787, during the summer heat with no air conditioning in Philadelphia, a draft for the Constitution finally was drawn up by our Founding Fathers. Even after it was rewritten and the final version was submitted for signing on Sept. 17, 1787, the lack of any Bill of Rights resulted in resistance from those who felt the document did not protect individual rights.
Benjamin Franklin accepted the Constitution, though he hesitated about several parts. Of the 39 who did sign, probably no one was completely satisfied; others signed with the understanding that a Bill of Rights would be written.
By the time the first Congress convened, the need for a document guaranteeing individual rights was recognized. Congress lost little time drafting the first 12 amendments, to be known collectively as the Bill of Rights. Ten were approved as a block by Congress in September 1789 and ratified by 11 states by the end of 1791. They remain intact today as they were written more than 200 years ago when they were written to specifically protect Americans' hard-won rights.
If we are to remain truly free, all of our Bill of Rights, and especially the first amendment, must be protected: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." The first amendment protects our freedom of conscience and must not be subject to interpretation to meet individual desires nor "politicizing." Our rights must not be chipped away nor redefined.
In 1863, a sculpture called the Statue of Freedom was installed with a 35-gun salute (for each of the existing states at that time). This statue rests on the top of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington and was to demonstrate personal freedom and union were intact. The words "E Pluribus Unum" were inscribed on the cast iron base. These words, "out of many, one," demonstrate our country's role in perpetuating freedom and democracy throughout our world. We are and must remain the role model for the world. The world listens and watches. Senator Akaka of Hawaii stated: "As our country continues to lead the world in the universal pursuit of freedom and democracy, we look to Lady Freedom for her constant inspiration -- to bolster us in our mutual efforts toward these great ideals ... She stands as a noble reminder to the world of the fundamental principles that make our country great."
God bless all those present and past who have loved, fought and died for our great country. And may we cherish and protect our freedoms, never forgetting they are a gift from God. We have been entrusted to not let America, nor the world, down.
Forever, may God bless America.
Ruth Moriarity is a member of the Generations advisory committee.