I remember the first time I stood for the National Anthem, I still feel the goosebumps and that sense of witnessing something greater -- an ideal as transmitted by this amazing document, the Declaration of Independence.
The Continental Congress formed a committee to draft the original document in Philadelphia on June 11, 1776. The team included Thomas Jefferson, who crafted the document, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston.
"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."
These are probably the most resonant words among the 1,307 that formed the most progressive piece of communication of all times. They signaled a decent respect for the opinion of mankind and a promise that held America in a special place in the hearts and minds of its people and the people around the world.
Cam Beck at Chaos Scenario has two tremendous posts on Independence Day and The Greatest Brand in America. I have two thoughts about what he writes: (1) the document was a testimony of how declaring an aspiration, and a lofty one at that, can energize a conversation and pave the path for the future, even in the face of circumstances not having changed yet; (2) independence and freedom are a gift, as the Statue of Liberty was at the time. One we should endeavor to deserve and protect. Let's not forget that, ever.
A while back, I found a wonderful definition of freedom in Ode magazine (I do not seem to be able to find the article). This seems an appropriate time to share a modified version of it.
"We are all essentially displaced people, all of us are refugees, we came from somewhere—and we are hopefully traveling all the time (even if we never leave our rooms), moving toward a new place.
Freedom means I may not be identified as part of any one group, but that I can visit and find myself in every group.
Freedom does not mean I don't have values or beliefs. But it does mean I am not hardened around them. I do not use them as weapons.
Freedom means not being owned, not occupied, not bought.
Freedom means finding the place in me that connects with every person I meet rather than thinking of myself as different, better or on top.
Believing there is a power determining everything at the same moment I know there is absolutely no one in charge.
Freedom is not knowing where you are but being deeply there.
Not waiting for someone to save or rescue you or heal your terrible past but doing that for yourself.
Not putting your flag in the ground.
Being willing to get lost.
Living without borders and passports.
Freedom is about being vulnerable to one another, realizing that our ability to connect is more important than feeling secure, in control and alone."
Happy Fourth of July.
[Holograph of the original rough draft penned by Jefferson, with changes from John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. Jefferson Papers, manuscript division, Library of Congress.]