On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, beginning with the following words:
"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."
This opening line and the words that followed set us on the path of freedom and liberty as a sovereign nation. The Declaration was a formal explanation of why we were declaring independence from Great Britain more than a year after the beginning of the Revolutionary War.
Though the work of perfecting our great union continues to this day, we have so much to celebrate as Americans. Our land of immigrants, our patchwork of religions and races, and our enduring strength as a beacon of light to the oppressed and downtrodden across the globe is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Because of these truly American characteristics, I'm reminded of the sonnet engraved on the side of the Statue of Liberty, written by Emma Lazarus, entitled The New Colossus:
"Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
I hope you'll join me this 4th of July to truly reflect on our good fortune as American citizens. Furthermore, I hope your resolve will be strengthened to continue working toward the greater good, with more equality of opportunity, more fairness for all Americans, and continued tolerance of our differences. Happy Independence Day!