1. It’s Inspiring
About four years ago I decided to memorize the first two paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence. I know – a pretty nerdy thing to do. Now, every year around the middle of June, I start reciting it – mostly to myself. I recite it while I’m walking the dogs (they’re not impressed), while I’m lying in bed dozing off to sleep, while I’m in the car heading to an appointment and sometimes when I’m on hold waiting to speak to a customer service person who I know will only make me irritated. “Why would I do that,” you may ask. For a few reasons. I’m an American history buff, for one thing. But mostly because I find the document so inspiring.
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.
According to Wikipedia, this has been called “one of the best-known sentences in the English language”, containing “the most potent and consequential words in American history”. Apparently I’m not the only one who finds the document inspiring. Its influence on the French Revolution is well documented. Again according to Wikipedia, some other countries that used the Declaration as inspiration or directly copied sections from it is the Haitian declaration of January 1, 1804 from the Haitian Revolution, the Argentine Declaration of Independence in 1816, the Chilean Declaration of Independence in 1818, Mexico in 1821, California Republic in November, 1836, Hungarian Declaration of Independence in 1849 and the Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand in 1835.
2. It Reminds Us Who We Are and Who We Aspire To Be
Every country has what might be called a national character. Ours can be found in the Declaration of Independence. As a nation we spend a lot of time criticizing ourselves. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. We believe that Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration’s principal author, would be shocked to see what has become of America. That may be. But that is exactly why we need to go back to our country’s founding document and read it again. Every great achievement starts with an idea. The Declaration of Independence is the expression of the idea of America. And reacquainting ourselves with that idea helps us regain our national perspective by reminding us who we are and who we aspire to be.
3. It’s America’s Birth Certificate
We all keep our birth certificate somewhere in our files. It’s our essential identification document. Among other things, it lists our date and place of birth. What your birth certificate is to you as an individual, the Declaration of Independence is to us as a nation. It legitimizes us by declaring to the world, “This is when we born, July 4, 1776.”
Bonus – Some July 4 Fun Facts
- Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826 within hours of each other. At the time of their death they were the last living signatories to the Declaration of Independence. Adams lived long enough to see his son elected the sixth President of the United States in 1825.
- Why do we celebrate with fireworks? – According to slate.com, because John Adams wanted us to. Before the Declaration of Independence was even signed, he envisioned fireworks as a part of the festivities. In a letter to Abigail Adams on July 3, 1776, he wrote that the occasion should be commemorated “with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
And Now Back to You
Have you read the Declaration of Independence? If you have, what are your thoughts about the document? If you were alive in 1776 would you have been part of the one third that favored the revolt against the British Crown?, the one third that remained loyal to the Crown? or the one third that simply didn’t care?