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District 13 report: As we celebrate, consider cause of American freedom

Last weekend marked a momentous occasion for all Americans: Independence Day.

The 238th edition of it, to be exact.

For many, the Fourth of July is a time for family, friends, festivities and fireworks. It’s become a time-honored American summer tradition.

However, it is important to remember what we celebrate and why.

We remember when 56 brave patriots boldly signed their names to a document, which gave birth to a new nation, but could also have meant their own demise.

You see, the signers of the Declaration of Independence understood that if the cause of American freedom was doomed, they would be as well, likely at the end of a rope, courtesy of British King George.

Or, as Benjamin Franklin put it, “We must all hang together or we will most assuredly hang separately.”

They not only risked their lives to give birth to America, they “mutually pledged” their “lives ... fortunes ... and ... sacred honor.” For many of those brave signers, that’s the price they ultimately paid, sacrificing their families, their fortunes and, in some cases, even their lives, in the cause.

However, none sacrificed their honor.

Those 56 were brave, devout men of principle and faith. In fact, more than half had seminary degrees. They were landowners, merchants, lawyers, clergymen and others, drawn together from a cross-section of 18th-century America to draw a line in the sand in defiance of an autocratic regime.

They gave birth to an unheard-of idea, a representative republic in which a government of, for and by the people, deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed, would rule for centuries over a proud, independent, prosperous and free nation.

Those brave souls could not have imagined the history their posterity would build upon their sacrifice, nor the beacon of freedom the nation they created has become, but they willingly risked all they had to give birth to an idea. Their commitment to faith, family and freedom echoes through the ages. They boldly proclaimed the rights that no earthly power could bestow, rights “endowed by their creator,” which are “unalienable.”

It now falls to our generation, in our time, to determine whether the cause of American freedom, to which they so boldly gave birth on that day we now commemorate, will (as Abraham Lincoln later put it) “long endure.” It is our decision, our challenge and our responsibility, just as it has been for each succeeding generation of Americans, to sustain freedom in our generation and pass it on to the next.

Are we willing to risk and sacrifice to ensure the blessings of freedom for generations to come, as they did?

The answer is ours to choose.

When Benjamin Franklin emerged from the Constitutional Convention just 11 years after that first Independence Day, a woman asked him, “Dr. Franklin, what sort of government have you given us?”

Franklin’s answer rings through the ages and remains our challenge today. “A republic, madam,” he said, “if you can keep it.”

Happy Independence Day.

Rep. Kim Koppelman, R-West Fargo, represents District 13 in the North Dakota House of Representatives.