As we celebrate this Independence Day, I’m reminded of our Founding Fathers who put together the greatest statement of self-government the world has ever seen: the Declaration of Independence. They proclaimed that “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.”
As you read it, each phrase of the Declaration of Independence is just as powerful as the one that precedes it, but it’s the founder’s recognition that every American is “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” that I believe is among the most profound statements to ever be made, and it’s a revered and cherished ideal that has been uniquely woven into the fabric of our society over the last two and a half centuries.
The rights that the founders described in that document aren’t determined by one’s social status, where an individual is born or raised, or even any standard set by government itself. That’s what makes them so unique. They’re granted to us by God. They are unalienable. And the governments born from these free people are created and maintained with their consent. That’s pretty remarkable when you think about it.
We’ve all learned about Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin. Similar to their place in our nation’s history, I believe each generation of Americans is blessed with leaders who are Founding Fathers in their own right – visionaries who help shape the future of America, just like those ambassadors of freedom who risked their lives by declaring freedom from the British crown; who helped preserve the nation against the backdrop of a civil war; who marched for universal suffrage; or who rattled communism with four simple words: “tear down this wall.”
These leaders, whether having served at the outset of our democracy or during peace or during conflict, have been supported every step of the way by our brave men and women in uniform. Individual leaders come and go, but the continual presence, force, and professionalism of the United States military is constant, and it’s fierce.
I’m proud to have recently voted for the National Defense Authorization Act, which will fund our military – including by giving our troops the largest pay raise in a decade – and help ensure that we can successfully protect Americans at home and abroad. It’s the right message to send any time of the year, but particularly now ahead of Independence Day and amidst renewed threats abroad.
While there are plenty of things that can spark division these days, the one thing that unites all of us is the foundational belief in freedom. The founders pledged their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” to it, and countless men and women throughout our history have similarly sacrificed to provide for future generations and build on the legacy they have all given us: freedom, democracy, and opportunity. Happy Fourth of July!