Patrick Taylor Highlands Mayor
The Fourth of July is our nation’s celebration of freedom and liberty. Now I love the fireworks, military bands and parades, but I take a moment to reflect about the meetings of our leaders over two centuries ago. When I am in Philadelphia I always visit Independence Hall where the founders of our nation created the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. For me it is scared ground, especially the rooms where our founders met, debated and hammered out these two foundational documents that set the direction for our republic. I am in awe as I stand there where Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, Adams and Madison struggled with other leaders day after day to argue, advocate and compromise in the process of creating these two great documents. The ideas, concepts and content hammered out in these two assemblies in Philadelphia have served this country well, although we, like the founders, continue to have different interpretations and applications of specific passages. Nevertheless, we have an enduring set of core values that has served America well over the years in our quest for national and individual freedom. While I am in Independence Hall, I always remember that the creators of these two documents didn’t have to become involved with such perilous endeavors. They were all relatively successful business people, officials and planters. Franklin, for instance, had accumulated enough wealth by his 40s that he was retired from business enterprises. Franklin could have elected to enjoy the bounty of his labors, but like others he chose the path of service to our fledging nation. What always strikes me is how that first meeting took place in this modest hall, and that these bright people were willing to challenge a super power of Western Europe and a king that believed he had the divine right to govern far away people while sitting in an opulent palace. What is amazing is that these leaders were making life and death decisions by declaring independence from King George III and Great Britain. What were they thinking? By signing the Declaration of Independence they became the targets of the British military. Fortunately, they were not rounded up and hanged for insurrection and treason against the crown. America is once again in time of political turmoil, but we have been there before. In times of distress I always hope we can all go back to the anchoring words of the founders. So let me end with what was penned by Jefferson on July 4, 1776. “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.” This is an election year. An enduring tradition has been that Americans have the right to change the course of our government every two years, by casting our votes. Enjoy this July 4th and celebrate our national independence, and our individual right to seek our destiny and happiness.