In the city of Philadelphia 235 years ago on this date, representatives of thirteen colonies under the subjugation of British rule, came together in congress to declare their independence from Great Britain and their desire to form their own country based on democratic principles. While the signing of this declaration took place over several weeks (and perhaps months), July 4 is recognized as the birthdate of the United States of America. Those signing the declaration knew that their own lives would be in peril should they be caught by the armies of the British Empire as their move toward independence was seen as treason in Great Britain. As a result of their courage, the new country would fight its "revolutionary" war and arise as a new nation destined to become the most powerful nation in the world as time went on.
We congatulate our country on this day but we know that the progress sought for by the founders of the nation has taken these two plus centuries to accomplish and much still remains to be done. And we are not without our faults and failings as a nation. We have fought several wars with other nations in order to preserve our freedoms (the War of 1812 when Britain attempted to regain control of the rebellious colonies; the Mexican War; the Spanish-American War; and two world wars among others). But the deadliest war that we fought as a nation was between ourselves: the Civil War fought between 1861 and 1865 which saw the deaths of over 620,000 soliders and civilians. It was fought because certain southern states in the nation felt their rights were being violated and decided to secede from the union. It ended up being a fight to abolish slavery in this country - officially pronounced by the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. But the struggle for civil rights for our African-American brothers and sisters went on for years with vestiges still remaining in our society today.
Yes, we have made many mistakes as a nation and being human will continue to do so in the future. We can only hope that we will learn from our mistakes and move on to retain our place in the family of nations as one that proclaims liberty and justice for all.
Our nation has been a beacon of welcome for many who have come from foreign shores to seek a better life. For those who entered our country by way of the eastern seaboard would find their vessels sailing into New York harbor where they would be met by the "lady with the lamp." She would reach out to "the tired, the poor, the huddled masses learning to breathe free" and lift her lamp "beside the golden door" to freedom. One of the most awesome sights I have ever experienced is being on a ferry boat as it approached the isle of Manhattan at night and seeing that beautiful lady holding high her torch of freedom. May all who come here always find that spirit of welcome.
In their solemn declaration of their independence, the founders of the country referred in their document four times to the Almighty, seeking the Creator's protection as they advanced their cause for freedom. They spoke of "certain unalienable rights" given by God to his sons and daughters - the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (please note that the first right cited was the "right to life").
Our prayers continue to rise from our hearts in thanksgiving for this great country and ask the protection of our God to sustain our liberties and enhance the good we can do as a nation among nations. To this end, we should be able to pledge - as did our founders - "our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor." May God continue to bless the United States of America!