This week, we celebrate the birth of our nation. In addition to spending time with family and friends, I hope you also took time to reflect on exactly what it is that we celebrate on the Fourth of July.
In 1776, some very brave men put their signatures on a piece of paper that not only declared independence from Great Britain, but also declared the essential values that make us Americans.
These values include the frank statement that we are all created by God as equally important people; that we have rights given to us by God which can’t be taken away, like the rights to our lives, our individual liberties and our individual pursuits of what makes us happy. And our government exists to protect these rights. Indeed, our government only has the powers which we the people consent to give it.
These values have helped our nation through the good and the bad during the course of the American story.
You see, we Americans are too often forgetful of our own history. If we remembered it better, we would know of the terrible difficulties faced by our forebears and the wisdom and fortitude they demonstrated in overcoming their challenges every time. Looking back on our history should make us optimistic about our future.
Don’t get me wrong, the challenges of today are very serious. Our economy continues to struggle. We face a range of serious threats to our safety and security, including the threat of terrorism. Our country is deeply polarized both politically and morally. There is great dissatisfaction with government in general.
But, by looking back on our history, I think you can take comfort in knowing the challenges of today are all things that can be overcome. It just requires courage, determination, and a belief in the fact tomorrow can, and will, be better than today.
Think about where our country would be if George Washington had not led those troops across the Delaware River in 1776 to defeat the British at the Battle of Trenton.
One can’t help but wonder if our nation would have been able to continue without the leadership of President Abraham Lincoln at a time when our country was literally at war with itself.
What would the United States look like today if the brave men of the Greatest Generation had not stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1944?
Imagine if Rosa Parks had thought it would be too hard to stay in her seat on that bus in Montgomery in 1955.
What would have happened if Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had been too afraid to take those first steps on the moon in 1969?
What if the first responders on Sept. 11, 2001 had turned and run away from the fire instead of running straight into danger?
You see, a quick glance back through our history is a strong reminder of the challenges our nation has faced, but, more importantly, of the determination, courage, and devotion of the American people.
So, do not give up on the American dream. Do not back down from the challenges of today. Do not let anyone tell you our country’s best days are in the past.
This week, as we celebrate our birth, let us renew the promise made by our forefathers to one another and mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor. And let us look to the future with determination and confidence.
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Bradley Byrne is a member of U.S. Congress representing Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.