While Independence Day is typically viewed as a time of celebration and welcomed time off, it is much more than that. The 4th of July celebrates one of the most profound moments in history, one that would shape the modern world. In the years leading up to independence, a growing resentment developed in what at that time were the 13 colonies. Tyrannical oppression had developed over the young colonies and resistance was growing. With the help of powerful writings like “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine, the general discord began to take shape.

In June of 1776, representatives from the colonies discussed and debated a motion put forth by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia. The motion called for the colonies to declare independence. After the resolution spawned heated debate, a five-man committee was established that included Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin and Robert Livingston. These men would draft the formal statement explaining the decision to break from Great Britain.

After the presentation of the document on July 2, the Continental Congress, in a near-unanimous vote, voted in favor of independence. Two days later, its delegates adopted the Declaration of Independence and a nation was born.

While it may seem to be an academic exercise now to look at the founding of our country, we should strive to see it in context. It was a dangerous and bold decision that could have cost these men their lives, yet they moved forward with courage and determination. There is one brief passage in the Declaration of Independence that embodies the essence of this action.

“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, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

The greatness of those principles still exists today. Independence Day is much more than the celebration of the founding of our nation—it is the celebration of exceptional courage in the face of adversity. It is the celebration of the character and beliefs that have become the greatest nation on Earth.

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