In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
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.
The Fourth of July can inspire mixed feelings with some, particularly for people like myself who have lost faith in our government and who don't hold up much hope of regaining that faith, even if the White House changes parties in the next election. If anything, a Democratic administration might very well damage our faith even more; I may be appalled at the immorality and shamelessness of the Bush Administration, but I'm never surprised, and I don't reel particularly betrayed. Some people are fond of saying that Bush is not their president, completely missing the point that he decided they weren't his constituents long ago.
And yet for me, Independence Day has a certain magic to it because I still have immense pride in being an American. Fourth century Romans could see the end coming, but that didn't stop them from recognizing what a remarkable achievement their very existence had been to the world. One can love with open eyes; what hope is there for any of us otherwise?
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, 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. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
The main reason I love this day so much is simple. Independence Day isn't about the bravery of Minutemen, George Washington on a horse, or the rockets' red glare. It doesn't celebrate the beginning of the Revolutionary War, but rather the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The Fourth of July celebrates nothing less than the power of words to change the world.
The words to the declaration have become so familiar, celebrated in marble and in textbooks, that it's easy to forget just how dangerous and seditious they really were at the time. The men who wrote them and signed their names were outlaws, and the cost to them could have been their very lives. They were writers and thinkers, and the power contained in their words, as well as the clever spin that gave their fellow colonists a deranged king as a villain rather than a faceless parliament, convinced a bunch of farmers and tradesmen to take up arms against the most powerful nation on earth. Those words changed the course of world history.
Guns and bombs and blood and bravery and sacrifice, all set in motion by pen to paper, and by minds at work. At the beginning of almost every world changing event, you'll find someone scribbling furiously, typing without pause, or speaking passionately to a gathering crowd.
Those of us who consider ourselves writers need to remember how our words can move the hearts of our fellow citizens of the world.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.