On July 4th, 1776, the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and formally adopted the Declaration of Independence. On this important day in our nation’s history, our Founding Fathers put their signatures on a piece of paper that not only declared independence from Great Britain, but also declared the essential values that define us as Americans.
This document ignited a sense of American pride with the memorable and historic opening statement: “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.”
As I reflect on what these words mean to us as Americans, I am reminded of the great sacrifices of the men who wrote them and those who defend this promise still to this day.
It is important for us to remember that the Declaration of Independence was just the beginning. The words inked into history set the core principles for American values: bravery, service, sacrifice, optimism, and honor.
From the triumph at Yorktown and the surrender of General Charles Cornwallis to the battles we fight across the world today, brave men and women have answered the call of service and defended these core American values at home and abroad.
It is because of the sacrifices of our servicemembers that Americans can sleep soundly at night knowing their freedoms are protected.
This week, like every year, Americans will don the colors of the flag and remember that momentous day over two hundred years ago when our nation was born.
People across the country will celebrate our nation’s history with fireworks, trips to the beach, barbecues, and family vacations. One tradition I hold dear is reading the entire Declaration of Independence aloud with family and friends, assigning different parts to different people, including children. There is nothing more powerful than hearing the words written in that historic and fundamental document.
When the Founding Fathers got together to compose the Declaration, they came from different backgrounds and upbringings with their own, unique ideas for forming the American government. At such a pivotal time in our nation’s history, they succeeded in setting aside their differences for a common goal to create our own American identity. Who knows where we would be today if they had not worked together and overcome their differences.
Much like then, there are forces at work in our society today seeking to divide us against one another and weaken our national spirit. Regardless of your race, religion, or creed, this Fourth of July, I urge you to look closely at the many ways we are united as Americans, rather than focus on our differences. At the end of the day, we all salute the red, white, and blue and should not let our differences dissolve our core values and beliefs.
That said, do not give up on the American dream. Do not back down from the challenges of today. Do not let anyone tell you that our country’s best days are in the past. We have so much to be thankful for in the United States, and I am confident that we have so much to look forward to.
As we reflect on this renewed sense of American pride, let us look to the future with determination and confidence and keep alive the vision that our Founding Fathers had on that day back in 1776. Happy Fourth of July to you and your family, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.
Bradley Byrne is a member of U.S. Congress representing Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.