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's the beginning of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence — "The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America" — signed this day 230 years ago, the date that's considered to be our national birthday. (Click the image to listen to National Public Radio staff reading the Declaration.)
On July 4th, 1776, 57 men signed a document declaring that we were to "dissolve the political bands which have connected" us with the King of Great Britain, and that outlined the reasons for doing so. It's a clear list, and a convincing one, leaving little room for argument. Those 57, and others, still had lots of work ahead of them — they still had a war to fight, and didn't have a constitution for more than eleven years after. And we still have work ahead of us now, to continue the vision of an independent and free nation that those men had.
The area where I live, the lower Hudson Valley in New York, is full of Revolutionary War history, from the location of the chain across the Hudson, which successfully blocked naval incursions up the river, to the various hiking trails through the hills, reproducing troop marches. I'm always amazed when I hike those trails, to think that troops bush-whacked their way through those dense forests, bringing their artillery along.
Often, on those hikes and on days like today, I reflect on the unalienable rights they spoke of, and the rights and freedoms they assured us of eleven years later. I understand that, fireworks and flag-waving included, there's nothing more patriotic — no matter what country one lives in — than participating in the process, speaking out when one thinks something's wrong, doing what one can to try to fix it. There's nothing that says, "I am a part of this," than being a part of it.
Today we celebrate the vision of the signatories and their compatriots, and remember their fight and what they built for us from it. So here's a Happy 230th Birthday to the United States of America.