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.
July 4, 1776
This national holiday is far more than fireworks and barbecues. Today we celebrate freedom, a cherished value for us as Americans. In our civil traditions, this value is grounded in reciprocal responsibility for each other. “National holidays call us to go beyond self-interest and personal profit to care for the community, local, global, and national.” Remembering that this is a nation founded by immigrants, acknowledging that we are the descendants of these immigrants, we can share the goal of freedom and dignity for all with those who come here seeking it. We can support this dream for all those already here regardless of their diversity of religions, races, sexual orientation, and economic status. Our country was founded on this dream. We cannot allow these values be sacrificed by self-serving politics. As we celebrate with fireworks and listen to patriotic speeches and songs, may we be grateful for the gift of America. In that spirit of gratitude, we can deny all prejudice a place in our hearts, and work for the time when all people will truly enjoy equal dignity and worth.
Bless our nation, O God, and guide us in right paths.
Reflect on the freedoms you cherish as an American citizen. Identify the corresponding responsibility you have for each. How can you join others to ensure that they will not be lost to the ambition of those who seek their own wealth and power above the common good? What distresses you about our country? How can you exercise your citizenship to help correct this? Reflect on the quotes from the Founders of our country.
You blind guides, who strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
You shall…proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.
You shall not therefore oppress one another.
Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it.
A government ought to contain in itself every power requisite to the full accomplishment of the objects committed to its care, and to the complete execution of the trusts for which it is responsible, free from every other control but a regard to the public good and to the sense of the people.
The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.
A judiciary independent of a king or executive alone, is a good thing; but independence of the will of the nation is a solecism, at least in a republican government.
Among the features peculiar to the political system of the United States, is the perfect equality of rights which it secures to every religious sect.
He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.
If by the liberty of the press were understood merely the liberty of discussing the propriety of public measures and political opinions, let us have as much of it as you please: But if it means the liberty of affronting, calumniating and defaming one another, I, for my part, own myself willing to part with my share of it, whenever our legislators shall please so to alter the law and shall cheerfully consent to exchange my liberty of abusing others for the privilege of not being abused myself.
I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.
He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.
My God! How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!