By Mayor Trent Staggs
245 years ago, the American spirit was born, memorialized in the unanimous Declaration that was signed by 56 representatives of not subjective colonies, but rather from united, “free and independent states.” The revolutionary beliefs stated in this magnificent document, declared 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.” These rights are given to us by nature of our birth and existence into this world, and not conditioned or bestowed upon us by government. Governments are instituted to protect these unalienable rights, with their just powers bestowed upon them with the consent from us, the governed.
Assuredly, one can look at our history and point to instances where we have struggled to ensure the equal protection of these unalienable rights. Slavery, restricting the right to vote, and other discriminatory practices tied to one’s gender, race, faith, or orientation that would infringe on these God-given rights has no place in American life or law.
We must be careful, however, not to focus on each other’s immutable characteristics and emphasize our differences. If we tear each other down based on political beliefs, half-truths or perceived slights, it can extinguish the flame of the American spirit. Rather, let us rally together, proud of the fact that “…we are the heirs of that first revolution…”, as JFK said in his inaugural address. Recognizing that we are all endowed by our Creator with the same rights and seeking out happiness in this most blessed country. There is far more that unites us than divides us. It is not hard to see the good in this country: we have fought for the protection and maintenance of freedom around the world, we remain the most charitable country and there is no other nation on the planet that embraces diversity like we do. Notwithstanding this diversity of race, religion, or ideology, if we can all unify around one American culture or spirit espoused in our Declaration, that unity can give us unconquerable strength.
We the people have come a long way to perpetuate the founding ideal that every individual is born with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which is often defined as the right to own and control property. I believe that more so than at any other time in our history, that happiness or American dream is attainable by anyone willing to work towards its pursuit and “catch up with it” as Benjamin Franklin once said.
This 4th of July offers a new opportunity to remember our humble beginnings, unite and once again be proud to be an American. Let us all regrow a sense of patriotism, love and devotion towards this divine nation. No doubt, we will have additional challenges to face but together we can conquer them all.
Happy Independence Day!