This isn't just the Fourth of July. It's Independence Day, and we hope fervently Americans use the occasion to really think about what that means.
When the nation's founders agreed on the declaration that residents of the then-colonies would separate from Great Britain and form a new nation, they were not merely proclaiming independence from the English crown. Most would have been content to remain subjects of King George III and the British Parliament, had that government not been so oppressive. For years many of the founders strove in vain to convince London to allow Americans basic liberties - the self-evident rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence.
It was these rights, not mere separation, that motivated the founders and millions of Americans who joined them in risking their all in the Revolutionary War. They sought independence of the people, by the people and for the people.
Too often, in what is a natural impulse among human beings, we are willing to sacrifice liberty for what we perceive as security, both financial and physical. In doing so, as we are learning now in relation to the staggering national debt, we often forfeit both.
It often is claimed the founders could not have envisioned the world we live in today, that our nation's basic documents of government - the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights - are antiquated. The same is said of the spirit that animated Americans in 1776.
But not a single challenge facing us as a people today was not understood by the founders, or thoughtful Americans in the beginning. A glance at debates over our form of government, such as those contained in the "Federalist Papers," makes that clear. National debt, conflict against what we now would call terrorists, government mandates in the name of the collective good - even environmental concerns - were debated then.
Our great nation's founders and Americans for more than two centuries have concluded personal liberties and limited government were the best means of safeguarding the welfare of both individuals and the people as a whole. They came down firmly on the side of independence.
Today, then, let us rejoice not just in our independence as a nation, but also in our liberties as Americans. Let us, in short, celebrate Independence Day, and rededicate ourselves to the principles behind it.