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Weekly Column: Independence Day

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

The Fourth of July is the fundamental American holiday.  It gives us an opportunity to spend time with loved ones in beautiful places across our great State and nation and celebrate the honor it is to be an American with shared unalienable rights.

As joyful as this holiday is, however, we cannot forget its importance nor take our freedoms for granted, as people around our world toil for the freedoms we have as Americans.  More than a year has passed since Russia invaded Ukraine, raining death and destruction on the Ukrainian people, who are resolved to defend the sovereignty of their free and democratic nation.  China’s human rights abuses are another glaring example of oppressive atrocities.  The International Labor Organization estimates a staggering 27.6 million people in the world are victims of forced labor. 

Countless people around the world long for the freedoms of speech, of the press, of the ability to petition their governments without persecution and to direct where their future takes them.  Americans are fortunate our country’s Founders recognized the utmost importance of these freedoms in the formation of our country and American servicemembers have fought, and given their lives, to preserve them at home and proliferate them throughout our world. 

As Americans, we know our system of government is special.  The charting of its course is documented in our Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.  We hold these truths to be so exceptional that protection of the documents is of national interest.  Illustratively, their security was heightened during one of our country’s darkest hours, in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The Smithsonian reports, “They were put on a train along with the Gettysburg Address and taken to Fort Knox in Kentucky, shielded by a retinue of armed Secret Service officers.” 

Further, the Smithsonian notes that Archibald MacLeish, the head of the Library of Congress at the time, wrote instructions to the Marine Guard tasked with defending these national treasures.  His stirring words convey the weight these documents carry, and their importance to not only Americans but also others around the world who respect and reach for the freedoms they signify. 
Archibald MacLeish’s October 1, 1944 memo reads:

“The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States are the principal possessions of the people of this country.  In them, if anywhere, the American Idea has its visible expression and its tangible form. . . .

Our nation differs from all others in this – that it was not created by geographic or by racial accident but by the free choice of the human spirit.  It was conceived and founded by men who chose to live under one form of government rather than under another, and in a conception of human life in which they themselves believed, rather than in a conception imposed by other men or inherited from the past. 

The sheets of vellum and the leaves of ancient paper in these cases which you guard are the very sheets and leaves on which that form of government and that conception of human life were brought to being.  Nothing that men have made surpasses them.

It is appropriate that these fragile objects which bear so great a weight of meaning to our people, and indeed to all the people of the world should be entrusted to the guard of men who have themselves seen active service in a war against the enemies of everything this Constitution and this Declaration stand for.

We leave them to your care with confidence.”

On the Fourth of July, I celebrate our extraordinary country that nothing people have made surpasses.  God bless America.

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