July 4, 1776: one day and one document that changed the world

By JAMES PHILLIPS,

On July 2, 243 years ago, the Second Continental Congress voted in the affirmative to declare our long awaited American independence from Great Britain and its feudal tyrant King George III. This historic vote, and the resulting independence declaration, guaranteed an eminent invasion by the period’s most powerful military forces. The Founding Fathers knew the impending war for freedom would be costly, but they had the forknowledge to understand winning this war would forever change the world.

Two days after the vote, on July 4, 1776, each of the 56 representatives inscribed their signature on the Declaration of Independence that formally announced our independence and revealed our intentions to remain a free country at all cost. Almost two-and-one-half centuries later, the U.S.A. remains the “land of the free,” and “we the people” are still living the dream of unbridled freedom our forefathers envisioned. They put their lives on the line to lead this country during the two wars, and the aftermaths, that won our freedom from European feudalism and forever broke the shackles of British tyranny.

When you think about the overall significance of July 4, it’s quite mind boggling. One single day that has directly affected the lives of over 700 million Americans, as well as countless people and countries around the world. And it all started with the masterfully penned declaration authored by  Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.

Jefferson and Adams were both supremely gifted penmen who would remain linked to July 4 and the Declaration of Independence for the rest of their lives, and even their deaths. Ironically, the two men died within five hours of each other on Independence Day 50 years later, July 4, 1826. 

The Declaration of Independence, as a whole, is a written masterpiece. Every sentence in the document has historical significance, but one of the more popular passages stands out, and has been lauded as one of the greatest lines ever written by man.

The first sentence of the most important document in American history clearly announced our intent to separate from the rule of, and all affiliation with, the crown of Great Britain. As with any written document, the opening is a key component of an effective communication. Jefferson’s opening sentence in the declaration achieved this goal and made the intentions of the U.S. crystal clear.

The moment Jefferson wrote the words of the second sentence it was, and remains to be, one of the most powerful and moving statements ever written, read or heard. “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.” It is as powerful a statement today as it was when written 243 years ago.

The meaning of that sentence is one that we as a country often struggle to achieve, but we never give up the goal of getting there. This very sentence represents the moral standard to which the United States aspires to obtain and maintain. That sentence is the backbone to the freedom this country has enjoyed and protected at home and abroad since its inception.

The United States of America is the land of unfettered opportunity, where anyone can dream, aspire and work to be anything they want. There’s no limitations on what you can achieve, accept for the personal excuses and doubts with which we harness ourselves. If a person has a dream, the drive and determination anything is possible, and that was made possible because of July 4, 1776. America cannot guarantee individual successes or riches, but it does guarantee that every single person has the freedom and opportunity to pursue their own happiness - and that is all anyone can ask for.

Happy Birthday America!