Daily Herald opinion: On Independence Day, we celebrate our nation’s birth and recommit to its future

Editor’s Note: The editorial below is an updated version of one first published on July 4, 2014:

John Adams, an imperfect but reverent statesman, is one of our favorite Founding Fathers partly because he left a greater written record of his life than any other founder and partly because he was so wont toward endearingly painful self-reflection.

He believed we would celebrate our freedom every July 2 because that was the day the Continental Congress first voted for independence. But the Declaration of Independence wasn't approved until two days later, and thus, since Thomas Jefferson's language captured the spirit of 1776, July 4 captured the annual holiday.

Would people have been saying “Happy Second” instead of “Happy Fourth” had Adams been right?

We don't care much for either salutation.

It's Independence Day. Let's use the name that reminds everyone what the holiday celebrates.

And Jefferson's words? Truth be told, much of the Declaration lacks the eloquence often accorded to it, but we’ve long been beholden to this passage:

“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 week, those words were in part tested by the Supreme Court ruling that gave U.S. presidents immunity for their “official” acts. Those of us who vehemently disagree with the ruling — and worry mightily where it may lead — find ourselves more cynical than in Julys past.

After all, the Declaration of Independence rejects tyranny; the Supreme Court ruling enables it.

But on this Independence Day, let us remember that with all our flaws, we are still a beacon of hope for the huddled masses around the world suffering from sectarian violence rooted in ancient tribal and religious identities.

We are still a place where dreams are born and nurtured.

We are still a place that guarantees freedoms only dreamed of in other parts of the world: the right to free speech, the right to a free press, the right to worship where we please. And, critically, the right to vote.

It is vital that we embrace and protect these rights and that we not let those who would try to diminish our freedoms, or to destroy what our Founding Fathers fought to build, succeed.

Right now, we are terribly divided, torn about so many issues and heading into an election with stakes that have rarely seemed higher.

But we owe it to ourselves and our nation to celebrate Independence Day, and to remember that it is not just about parades and fireworks.

Today, let us toast to freedom — and work together to forever protect it.

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