I am an Irishman and in 2006, I was blessed with the opportunity to spend Independence Day in America. It was a magical experience I will never forget and one I am desperate to repeat.
Everything about the day was magical. I can remember every little detail: seeing the pure joy on people's faces when they saw family members, not seen since Christmas; enjoying burgers and hot dogs being grilled to perfection in the mid-afternoon; jumping on a boat and witnessing an awe-inspiring fireworks display with the feel of a cold beverage in my hand; coming ashore and sitting around an open fire, toasting marshmallows.
As fun as these activities were, they are NOT what made the day magical.
The day was and is made magical remembering WHAT Americans are celebrating: being thankful for the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence and the idea of America which improved EVERY aspect of our world.
I would be honored if you would allow me to share five pivotal points from the Declaration, explaining how they started America on the path to becoming an exceptional nation, and how you can learn from the founders' example today.
1 The Layout
Take a look around society today, and you will notice a prevalent theme. The majority of people are angry, upset, and frustrated. They love to highlight the parts of society they view as a problem and tear it down. This requires zero talent. Even newborn babies with no verbal skills and very little knowledge of the outside world will let you know when they are unhappy by crying for a clean diaper, food or attention.
History is filled with people complaining and starting wars because they feel they have been wronged and sought a future "free from their oppressor".
Thomas Jefferson and your founders were different. Before mentioning any issues with the King (they waited 1338 words), they first explained their vision and how America would be different from other nations. They boldly declared that all men were created equal and have a God-given right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
This principle of explaining what you are for has a long track record in American society and has long lead to effective change.
This principle of explaining what you are for has a long track record in American society and has long lead to effective change. This includes famous speeches by John F. Kennedy declaring, "We will go to the moon by the end of this decade," or the great Martin Luther King Jr. telling everyone how he "had a dream."
LESSON: Tell the world what you stand for -- not what you stand against!
2 Role of Government
I have spent over seven years with The Blaze, promoting your founding principles and explaining how America is unique and different to every other nation in the world. Every principle, policy, plan and idea can be traced back to one core principle: How we view government and its role in society.
On the surface of history, it is very easy to believe that our world is very different and would provide many different answers to this simple question.
Just look at our world today and you see many different power structures. England retains a monarch. European countries, like mine, are democracies. Iran is a theocratic-controlled country. Russia is an oligarchy. Inside those countries, you will notice differences in ideologies between communism, socialism, fascism, liberalism and even conservatism.
YES, they all look very different. However, if you look deeper into those countries, you will notice they all view government the exact same.
Government is a central agency that possesses the power to be the moral arbiters of society, the ability to be the great equalizer and most importantly they are the provider of rights.
Does this mean every government uses this power every day?
Clearly, there are governments around the world who are more open to freedom and view government as the last resort. However, every country believes government always has that power and there are situations when government must take control for the "greater good".
If you doubt this, look at the response to the coronavirus pandemic. Even countries that love to talk about freedom and identify as freedom-loving, removed their citizens' rights in the name of public safety. You witnessed everything from governments shutting down businesses, banning you from traveling more than three miles from your home, limiting the number of people you could have to visit your own house and enforcing you to wear a mask.
How could they do this? Because government is the power structure of all these countries and providers of rights. Any government that has the power to confer can also rescind them under the right circumstances.
Your founders were very clear that they did not share the world vision of an all-powerful government.
The idea of America is different. Your founders were very clear that they did not share the world vision of an all-powerful government. You can see this by reviewing the structure of the Constitution, but that foundation was started in the Declaration of Independence when they spoke about the Law of Nature and Nature's God, which highlights ALL rights come from God. You are born with these rights and it is the government's sole responsibility to ensure these rights are never taken away.
3 RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Take a step back and look at the public discourse today. You will notice the majority of people love to talk about their rights. My friends on the right love to talk about their right to free speech and guns. My friends on the left love to talk about their right to healthcare and abortions. When was the last time you saw anyone online talk about their duty and responsibilities? It's not a very popular topic.
Your founders were not dumb men.
Their genius was understanding the laws of nature and basic first principles. They researched world history -- from the great empires of the past to senates that were supposed to last forever, examining why they failed. While there are countless reasons for each, understanding one concept is critical. When freedom becomes all about rights and forgets about responsibilities, it creates a vacuum. Historically, the government always fills that vacuum. This creates a prime opportunity for a tyrant to come to power and solve a public need and always ends the same way - gaining more power and stripping you of your individual rights.
Your founders feared this vacuum and warned against it TWICE in the opening paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence. They spoke about your right to alter and abolish your government, instituting new safeguards. Then they spoke about your right, and duty, to throw off the government and provide new guards.
LESSON: Freedom without responsibility will always lead to tyranny.
4 RACIST FOUNDERS
As an outsider, nothing annoys me more than the constant attacks on your founders and their brilliance. Were they perfect? NOPE. Should they be worshipped like Idols? NOPE. Are there things we can improve upon? Yes. For example, it's 2021; why does the post office need to be included in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution?
Despite their flaws, they provided America with a great platform on which to build. If America is to survive and prosper, the IGNORANT attacks that America's founders were old racist white men with wooden teeth must stop. Why? Because it is a LIE!!!
I could write at length about this issue alone, but I will provide two simple facts.
Firstly, please close your eyes and imagine an actual racist (no, not your typical Donald Trump supporter). Imagine how they look, how they sound, what words they use and everything down to what aftershave they wear. Got that vision? Good. Now try imagining that vile, disgusting racist say the following:
ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL!
Did your vision say those words? Do you think people like David Duke would say them, let alone sign their name to a statement declaring this as a self-evident principle for the world to see?
The second fact requires you to have a reading of history before America. Thomas Jefferson could have very easily left these five powerful words out entirely or just use the accepted language of the day from the Magma Carta which stated:
"All FREE men are created equal."
If Jefferson and the founders were racist, why did they improve on the language of the day and declare this truth as self-evident?
If ...the founders were racist, why did they improve on the language of the day and declare this truth as self-evident?
5 FORGOTTEN FOUNDERS
If you look at culture and politics today, you will notice a common theme where everyone just wants to win, regardless of the cost. Society tells us winning is everything, and there is no room for failure. Is this true? Can society progress really progress without failure and sacrificing everything they have for the greater good?
American history is so vast and deep that it can be straightforward to focus on the great and famous leaders who survived like Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison and Franklin.
This particular weekend, I would like to briefly highlight three patriots who took the ultimate risk by signing the Declaration of Independence. They lost everything, and are sadly forgotten by many who teach history.
JOHN HART: John was a widowed farmer in New Jersey with 12 kids. He was rich, well-known in society, and employed many. When he signed the Declaration, troops attacked his farm with orders to execute him in Hopewell. He fled and eventually died in hiding.
FRANCES LEWIS: Frank was involved in international business and made a fortune on the mercantile exchange. Like John, he was rich, powerful and employed many. When he signed, he returned to find armed troops at his home, taking possession of it. They arrested his wife, starved and mistreated her and although she was later released, she soon passed away due to the horrific treatment.
RICHARD STOCKTON: Richard was a wealthy lawyer who studied at Princeton. He served on the New Jersey Supreme Court and had the respect of his peers. After signing, he was locked up, starved, tortured, and robbed of his possessions. His treatment was so bad that his final days were spent living on the charity of friends.
These brave men could have chosen a much easier road in life. They could have ignored the calls for Independence, paid any additional taxes to the King and still lived a great life. They had everything you would deem desirable in society -- money, earthly possessions, name recognition, and respect.
...these men... risked everything they had so everyone could have a brighter and freer tomorrow.
When they signed the Declaration of Independence, the only thing they could gain was an opportunity for absolute freedom. This ideal was so powerful that these men, and countless others, risked everything they had so everyone could have a brighter and freer tomorrow.
LESSON: Pursuing a higher aspiration is more important than winning.
It is popular for Americans to say "Happy 4th" or "Happy 4th of July."
PLEASE STOP SAYING IT!
After reading this, realize how important and significant your founders to America and the world. It is disrespectful to them, their memory, their sacrifice, and everything they fought for. After all, would you go up to a Christian and say "Happy 25th?"
May I wish you and your exceptional nation a very HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!