July 02, 2012

Celebrating Our Independence

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Ten days before his death, Thomas Jefferson wrote his last letter in which he expressed his enduring belief in the Declaration of Independence and America as a model of self-government to the world.  The letter was a response to an invitation from the city of Washington to a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of American independence. 

Jefferson wrote, "I should indeed, with peculiar delight, have met and exchanged there congratulations personally with the small band, the remnant of that host of worthies, who joined with us on that day, in the bold and doubtful election we were to make for our country, between submission or the sword; and to have enjoyed with them the consolatory fact, that our fellow citizens, after half a century of experience and prosperity, continue to approve the choice we made.  May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self-government.  That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion.  All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man…" 

Jefferson wrote this letter fifty years after the Declaration was signed.  Our form of government had been tested for half a century.  That it has now endured for more than 200 years is due in large part to our inspired founders who constructed a durable U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, based on the principles of freedom and a limited federal government, and our commitment to protecting these principles.  The dedication of millions of Americans to respect and defend these freedoms is what makes our country exceptional.  It enables opportunity and prosperity.

Independence is at the core of Americanism, and our collective independence is what binds us together as a nation of individuals.  We can choose where and how to live our lives.  We can decide the right course for ourselves, our families and our nation.  We do not need an overly-empowered central government to make choices for us.  As the Declaration of Independence clearly states, "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-That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…"  Our freedoms and respect for individual rights continue to make America a beacon of peaceful democracy. 

As we join with family and friends to celebrate this Fourth of July, we must not forget that we must continue to work diligently to ensure that these principles are not eroded and that our self-government remains a strong and steady symbol to the world.  To do so will ensure that the choice of independence remains intact for generations of Americans.

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Word Count:  507