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Legislative Report District 13: Reflections on Independence Day, rising to teh call of insuring freedom

With Independence Day fresh on our minds, it's an appropriate time to reflect upon America, independence, freedom, our past and our future.

When 56 delegates from the 13 colonies signed the Declaration of Independence, they knew that they were potentially signing their death warrants. In fact, that was the likelihood. The odds against the fledgling, ragtag colonial army emerging victorious over the strongest empire on earth were staggering.

The signers sensed both the historic drama and the danger of the moment, but they were committed, pledging their "lives, their fortunes, and (their) sacred honor."

The document they had signed was revolutionary in more ways than one. Of course, it declared the colonies' independence from British rule and marked the beginning of the American Revolution, our nation's struggle for independence. But it did much more.

It laid the foundation for a unique form of government and a level of freedom never before seen on the face of the earth.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident," they wrote, "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." The document goes on to explain that the governments which secure these rights obtain their authority from the consent of the governed.

These words are so familiar to many of us that we may not appreciate their true impact or uniqueness. Traditionally, governments had unquestioned authority and the people they governed were mere subjects, under the rule of kings and despots. If those governments even acknowledged individual rights or God, the understanding was that God gave rights to rulers (the divine rights of kings) and that the rulers allowed the people to exercise only the limited rights that they determined suitable.

Our founders understood fundamental truths that had never before made their way into government practice. They enshrined in our nation's birth certificate, the understanding that rights come from God to people, that government exists to protect those God-given rights, and that government enjoys only the authority the people give it.

Many make the case today that we've forgotten those founding principles and that government in America has become too large, too intrusive, and too expensive. Perhaps they're right. The good news is that the people are speaking up, taking a stand and telling those in government what they object to (such as too much government control) and what they want of government (such as fiscal responsibility).

In other words, they're doing exactly what the founding documents imply that they should. That should give us all hope. Patriotic Americans of all stripes, from all regions, are getting involved and ensuring that, some 234 years after those remarkable patriots staked their lives on a new nation, Americans are still willing to rise to the call to ensure freedom for generations to come.

A few years after the Declaration, when Benjamin Franklin emerged from the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1789, a woman asked, "Dr. Franklin, what sort of government have you given us?" He responded, "A republic, madam, if you can keep it."

The weeks, months, and years ahead will determine whether we pass on to the next generation, the greatest, freest nation in the history of the world. Whether we can keep this republic is up to us, just as it is to every generation of Americans. May we rise to the challenge and may God bless America!