Have you ever looked at a grand, tall, sturdy structure and ever thought to yourself, “It doesn’t really matter how strong that thing’s foundation is”?
Of course you haven’t. That would stretch the boundaries of foolhardy. All structures rest on a foundation. No fabrication long endures without a stout underpinning.
So why would anyone think otherwise of the grandest, tallest, sturdiest nation in history?
Yet, it’s clear that many Americans today don’t much care about America’s foundation – the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. They may think the Constitution is outdated and irrelevant, that it needs to be elasticized to fit the exigencies of the moment.
As for the Declaration of Independence, its meaning and wisdom and its own relevance may be lost on many.
The Founders, it’s obvious enough, aren’t in fashion. They’re considered by many to be little more than dead white men – radical right-wingers at that.
But those “extremists” happened to be some of the most learned and daring figures in history. And whatever you think of them, they poured a foundation unequaled in human endeavors – one that you are enjoying today. Their thinking, their writing, their bold actions form the bedrock upon which this greatest of all nations was constructed.
How could that foundation not be key to what comes after? The prosperity? The liberty? The comforts? The achievements?
Harry Truman once warned that, “We find it hard to believe that liberty could ever be lost in this country. But it can be lost, and it will be, if the time ever comes when these documents are regarded not as the supreme expression of our profound belief, but merely as curiosities in glass cases.”
America is unique in the world in that it was founded not as an accident of ethnicity or geography, but as a coherent set of principles based in the Judeo-Christian ethic, and with some of the most irrefutable logic about the nature of man and his constructs.
The Declaration of Independence – America’s birth certificate – contains some of the most profound, important and moving sentiments in the long affairs of mankind.
Even in its audacious announced split with England – which the signers knew was a declaration of war, and perhaps their own death warrants – the Declaration’s phraseology was simply soaring:
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
And while “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions,” they concluded by promising ominously, “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
Never has a band of brothers made a more profound, unambiguous, historic pact with each other or with the whims of fate.
While relishing the fruits of their courage and foresight today, we should ask ourselves: Is the foundation they laid any less pertinent to liberty and prosperity? And have we been adequate stewards of what has been bequeathed to us?
Happy birthday, America. For our progeny’s sake, and with a growing concern for it, we raise a toast to your health and longevity. And like our forebears, may we pledge to you “our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”