Two hundred and forty-five years ago, a group of patriots stood up and declared independence for themselves and their countrymen. They did this despite the risk to their own lives and with no promise that their campaign for freedom would succeed. All they had was a ragtag team of volunteer soldiers who were willing to stand up to a global empire – funds were tight, weapons were scarce, and there was still much disagreement over the direction this new country should go.
What they knew to be true, though, was they had the strength of a just cause and the desire for freedom. Despite the long odds, succeed they did. And thus, our country was founded upon that spirit of patriotism, bravery, and freedom – and we’ve never looked back.
The famed document our Founders adopted on July 4, 1776, laid out the case for the colonies’ independence from Britain. It proclaimed that government derives its power from the governed and that it is, therefore, the right of the people to change their government. This was a radical idea during the era of kings and queens and emperors, but it has stood the test of time and has remained a core tenet of our nation to this day.
Our Founding Fathers wanted to form a government – a democratic republic – that empowered the people to decide their representation through elections. Our current government as we know it today wasn’t created until the signing of the Constitution 11 years later, but the ideas put forth in the Declaration of Independence are woven into the very fabric of our democratic system.
The rich history of our Founding Fathers is still evident today. Not just in the monuments and statues erected in their honor, but also in the adventurous, freedom-loving American spirit. We are a people of free thought and independence, resiliency and risk-taking, loyalty and faith. These qualities drove history’s patriots to fight for the independence we enjoy today, which has been preserved by generations of selfless Americans who have answered the call to defend it. These inspiring traits made our Founding Fathers successful in creating the greatest country the earth has ever known. These are still the qualities that make America a nation of deep-rooted communities, religious diversity, and strong family ties.
Each year on the Fourth of July, we join together as a country to celebrate our nation’s founding and take pride in the great things we’ve accomplished together. Through the centuries, there have been ups and downs, but we toast to these cherished words that have helped guide our country through our ever-evolving journey: “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
America has always promised something unique to its people: to be a country where you can pursue your dreams, find happiness, and earn success—opportunities we cherish every day in South Dakota.
I wish every American a happy Independence Day. I hope that we can all strive to fulfill our Founders’ promise and pass along the great American spirit for generations to come.