On this day, the 240th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, people all across the nation engage in traditional celebrations of our nation’s independence, with cookouts, fireworks, parades and the like. However, in the recent past, in the eyes of many Americans the 4th of July has become little more than that; a day off of work and a time for socializing. We seem to have lost a sense of a deeper purpose and more profound meaning that July 4 has for our nation.

We almost weren't a nation!

On that summer day in 1776, in a hot meeting hall in Philadelphia, the situation couldn’t have been more different than today's July 4th celebrations. It was no picnic! There was already fighting in the north, around Boston, and British Redcoats were being deployed in droves from England, intent on enforcing the taxes and Acts of Parliament that had been unilaterally imposed upon the thirteen colonies. These signs of British dominion enraged our Founding Fathers, who were gathered in Independence Hall to decide the fate of the colonies.

The values and principles of the Framers (spoken of in the Declaration of Independence and later enshrined and put into action through the Constitution) were reflective of the fact that they felt were siege by the British Empire. These brave souls had pledged "their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor" to the cause of freedom and liberation; the outcome would come several more years down the road, but not before many years of setbacks, military defeats and treachery, deprivation and ultimately triumph, thanks to the leadership of General George Washington.

In the present day, many of these values they cherished are once more under assault. Attempts to limit free speech, attack the Second Amendment right to bear arms, and to violate other legal protections of citizens, must be opposed vigorously. Those unalienable rights, including the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which come from our creator, are not subject to seizure by the government, because they did not come from government. We once faced the British Empire and its tentacles; now the threat comes from well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) politicians, special interest groups, and activist judges.

In recent years, interest in our Founders has surged again. Where previously we had the musical "1776," we now have "Hamilton." Many fantastic books have been written by authors like David McCullough (John Adams), Joseph Ellis (Jefferson, Washington), Ron Chernow (Hamilton), Walter Issacson (Franklin), and many others. Public interest in genealogy has surged as a result as well. In Marietta, we have many historic markers and more Revolutionary War officers interred than anywhere else in the nation.

The 4th of July should not be merely a nice day off work, or just a time for a family get-together. What it should foster is a rededication of ourselves to the principles of freedom and equality of opportunity that made this nation great, and if we rediscover these values within ourselves, we can prompt a revival of our nation the likes of which hasn’t been seen this century or the last.

I encourage you to devote a few minutes this July 4 to rereading the Declaration of Independence; our U.S. Constitution is likewise more accessible than ever, thanks to the internet, and many free copies are being handed out by other nonprofit groups. Don't feel bad; please enjoy your day off, enjoy your family and friends, and enjoy the cookouts, but do not neglect your vital role as a citizen, a voter, and a participant in this great republic.

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