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July 4, 1776

Thomas Jefferson wrote these words nearly two and a half centuries ago.

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 to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

If you like, you can see each sentence explained here.

The words seem to me to be self evident. Jefferson, like the other signers of the Declaration, were wealthy, landed, comfortable men. But they came together to pledge their “Lives, Fortunes, and Sacred Honor,” to risk everything, to begin an experiment that has lasted until today.

Perfect? No. No more perfect than the humans that created it. But it seems that its the best there is. When we pledge ourselves and fight and die, we are sometimes right, and sometimes wrong. But as General Mark Clark said at Normandy after WWII:

IF EVER PROOF WERE NEEDED THAT WE FOUGHT FOR A CAUSE AND NOT FOR CONQUEST, IT COULD BE FOUND IN THESE CEMETERIES. HERE WAS OUR ONLY CONQUEST: ALL WE ASKED … WAS ENOUGH … SOIL IN WHICH TO BURY OUR GALLANT DEAD.

Jefferson et al had no idea what they were starting. But I think they would be proud of what, warts and all, has remained today. They created a crucible where great ideas could be forged, where morals and leadership could grow, where anyone, yes anyone, if they work hard and persevere can prosper and find that happiness.

Happy Birthday America — Many happy returns.

JVH

 

 

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