Had you been standing around at the State House in Philadelphia on July 8, 1776, you would have been among the first to hear those words from our nation’s birth certificate read aloud in public. You would have heard loud shouts, huzzas, firing of muskets and bells (including the “liberty bell”) ringing all day throughout the city. Thus began our tradition of Fourth of July celebrations.
This 4th of July our members will read these words from courthouse steps all over the State of Texas. Last year we were in 74 counties. This year we want to be in at least 100. Why are we doing this? Why is this important? One needs only to watch televised on-street interviews to see the absence of knowledge about current civic events or history. One survey found that more people knew the names of judges on “American Idol” than knew of the phrase “government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” or that it came from Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. So I say that we need to do what we can to remind people whence we/they came.
The signers of the Declaration were not being melodramatic when they pledged to support their declaration with their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor. They meant it, and they made good on their pledges. Some of them lost their lives in the war. Some of them who survived lost their homes and lands. Some of them died as paupers. But none of them ever lost their honor. We should do nothing less than remember their sacrifices with public readings of their words. Because of this declaration we, to this day, continue to be free and independent and to enjoy the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The nation that was born through this declaration was young and, it can be argued, far from perfect. Some of the signers owned slaves. Women were far short of suffrage. Native Americans were referred to in the declaration as “merciless Indian Savages.” We had a long way to go, but the nation created by this declaration has become our nation today, now dedicated more than ever to the proposition that all are created equal. Ours is a nation that enjoys freedoms the likes of which have never before been seen. Our nation was indeed conceived in liberty and should never be allowed to perish from the earth.
President Lincoln spoke of a “great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure.” The Declaration of Independence marked our conception, and we have long endured. May God continue to bless the United States of America.
So please do not miss the opportunity and privilege of remembering and honoring our nation’s birth certificate. Organize a public reading in your home county. You’ll be glad you did.