By Mayor Trent Staggs
244 years ago, the great American experiment of a republican form of government began with 56 patriots. They mutually pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to stand firm in declaring independence from a powerful king and country more than 3,000 miles away. The revolutionary ideals 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…” expressed on that fateful day would have extraordinary effects on future generations.
Every July as I ponder the wisdom and sacrifices of our founders, I find myself in a humbled state. It is difficult to imagine what life would be like today had the original 13 colonies not unified and stood against tyranny. The righteous design of self-government was blessed with a victory in the Revolutionary War, followed by the miracle of unifying all the states with a written Constitution that guarantees to all citizens those inalienable rights. George Washington, who had every opportunity to become king of the new world, resigned his commission at the conclusion of the war and returned to civilian life. And, after having been duly elected as our first President, chose to step down from that office in 1797, therefore setting an important precedent and proving that this new nation would never be governed by a single person, but rather keep the power in We the People. We the people need to continue to create a world in which the American dream continues to be obtainable.
Benjamin Franklin once stated, “The U.S. Constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself.” The 4th of July is a celebration of our Independence but also the celebration of the American dream. I recognize our nation has struggled to ensure equal protection of those inalienable rights, resulting in a civil war and amendments to our Constitution. We have come a long way in the realization of the ideal that every individual is born with the same God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our success as a nation comes not in guaranteeing equality in outcome, only equality in opportunity. And that American dream is attainable by everyone and anyone willing to work towards that pursuit and catch up with it.
On this day I pray we can all have gratitude for the rights and freedoms we have in this nation, recognizing that there are still many in the world who don’t have the liberties we hold dear. Or, as John F. Kennedy said in his inaugural address “…the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe – the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God. We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution.” Let us stand together to continue the progress made by those who came before us, live a life worthy of their sacrifice, and promote freedom and equality of opportunity to everyone. America the beautiful is full of possibility and together we can create a better world for our children and future generations.
Happy Independence Day!