Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Celebrating The Nation's Founding


As is our tradition here at VisionLink, passing on holiday insights from Stan Stahl.  His written words continue to underscore the importance and meaning of community--we the people.

Happy 4th of July!
Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
VisionLink
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Independence Day, 2012
Stan Stahl, Ph.D.

In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

On July 1, 1776 on a hot and humid summer day in Philadelphia's Independence Hall, John Adams of Massachusetts was locked in debate with Pennsylvania's John Dickinson over whether the 13 American colonies should declare their independence from Great Britain.

Dickinson was the leader of the Pennsylvania delegation. He was not opposed to independence, but felt we needed to do more to reconcile with the King. He argued that to proceed with a declaration of independence would be "to brave the storm in a skiff made of paper."

Conservative John Adams was the revolutionary. He had become convinced of the necessity of independence fifteen months earlier when British troops had fired on colonists at Lexington and Concord in the "shot heard round the world."

In the intervening months he had seen how the Crown had ignored several entreaties by the colonists to settle matters amicably. He had seen the British fleet in Boston harbor and he had seen British ships attempt to sail up the Delaware River to attack Philadelphia. To Adams, reconciliation was not possible.

In one of Abigail Adams' letters to her husband she had offered some favorite lines of Shakespeare:

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.
Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat.
And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.

This was Adams frame of mind as he rose from his seat to answer Dickinson. His message was strong and it was clear: "We are in the very midst of revolution, the most complete, unexpected, and remarkable of any in the history of the world."

*****

I woke up last Thursday morning with a joyful anticipation, almost 236 years to the day after we, the people took on the mantle of self-government, 236 years after our fathers brought forth a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Today was the day the Supreme Court was to issue its ruling on Obamacare.

Like most Americans I cared about the outcome, hoping my team would win. But like my first baseball game when I was 8, much of my excitement was just being there.

I woke up Thursday morning on the stage of history. We, the people woke up on the stage of history, 236 years into the revolution, the most complete, unexpected, and remarkable of any in the history of the world.

America's revolution continues. It began on the 4th of July, that day in Philadelphia, when our fathers brought forth a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to proposition that all men are equal. It did not end in 1783. We are still in its midst.

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.

Beyond this basic statement of our creed, we, the people are- like Adams and Dickinson-of all opinions. Or like Adams and Jefferson, with Franklin, coauthors of the Declaration: friends and allies at America's beginning, bitter political enemies during their time in government and deep friends in their later years, both dying on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration.

During the next four months we, the people are going to be bombarded with political advertising. It is going to be vicious. We are in the midst of revolution; both sides have lots at stake and lots of money. Fear and anger run high. Obama or Romney? Will Republicans keep control of the House? Will Democrats keep control of the Senate? The next four months will be brutal.

So today, let's celebrate the birth of freedom, that unique moment when we, the people created a nation that was to be governed by its people, not by the King. Before July 4, 1776, the colonists were governed from abroad, by a King and his Parliament, to serve the needs of the Crown with little political say in how they were governed. That changed forever on July 4, 1776.

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.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

Today whatever side of the cultural wars you happen to be on, take a moment to celebrate that you have the freedom to be on your particular side of the culture wars. And in doing so, also recognize that people on all sides of the culture wars have the same inalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is not just a moral principle-a corollary of the Golden Rule-but a practical one as well. As Benjamin Franklin said: We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.

Take a moment today to celebrate that we, the people continue the dialogue of self-government. Celebrate the messy discordant atonal arrhythmic sometime surprising cacophony that is the voice of we, the people. The culture wars are the very chords and rhythms of freedom. Celebrate freedom.

And in our celebration of freedom, let's also rededicate ourselves to our opportunity, that it is our legacy to advance the revolution, the most complete, unexpected, and remarkable of any in the history of the world. Let us remember Lincoln's words in those in those dark days of Civil War 150 years ago.

Fellow-citizens we cannot escape history. We ... will be remembered in spite of ourselves. ... The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation.

Let's do good by the founders. Let's make them proud.

Let freedom ring.