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Radical ideas behind America

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POSTED: July 10, 2009 10:01 a.m.
Independence Day is one of the most celebrated and important holidays we observe as Americans. Nestled in the beginning of summer and conjuring up memories of fireworks, watermelon and cookouts with friends and family, all to the sound track of Lee Greenwood’s “I’m proud to be an American,” July 4th is traditionally a joyous and happy time in America and rightly so. Independence Day should also be a time when we make an intentional effort to reflect and remember the story of America and what it means to be citizens of this great country.
There have been many revolutions throughout world history. So what was so unique and exceptional about the American Revolution and independence? The difference was that the American Revolution was not a throwing out of one dictator or government and replacing it with another. It was a revolution of ideas and worldview. Most revolutions, constitutions and creations of governments throughout history have been based on the idea that the rights of man are provided solely by government, but the American Revolution was based on the idea that the rights of man are inalienable and given by the grace of God, and no government or country can take them away. This was a radical and revolutionary idea.
Our founding fathers formed the United States government on the premise that government receives its power and authority from the people and government should protect the God-given rights of each individual. The greatness of our nation is found in the creativity, ingenuity and success of the people, not the greatness of our government.
Many historians have attempted to alter the story and character of the men who founded our nation. Though they had their faults, as all men do, what these men accomplished was extraordinary. They came from every imaginable background, walk of life and profession. Many of them were wealthy land owners who had everything to lose and nothing to gain from rebelling against King George.
To these men, their belief in these ideals and convictions was important enough to risk everything, even their lives. Toward the bottom of the Declaration of Independence where each man signed his name, they pledged to each other and the cause of independence their “lives, fortunes and their sacred honor.” They signed with full knowledge that the document was, in essence, a death warrant.
Even in the darkest moments when hope of victory seemed unattainable, John Adams wrote his wife Abigail saying “we cannot guarantee success in our cause, but we can do even better, we can deserve it.”
The American story continues to be written and the burden of preserving these ideals and living up to them falls to us. Independence Day is not just a holiday celebrated with watermelon and fireworks. It is a cause we have inherited and one we must continue.
In one of his most defining speeches, Ronald Reagan said, “This idea — that government was beholden to the people, that it had no other source of power — is still the newest, most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man. This is the issue of elections: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”
I encourage us all to take a moment after celebrating Independence Day to reflect on our American story and rededicate ourselves and “our sacred honor” to continue to advance the cause of liberty.

Williams is president pro tempore of the Georgia Senate. He represents the 19th Senate District, which includes Appling, Jeff Davis, Long, Montgomery, Toombs, Wayne, and Wheeler counties and a portion of Liberty and Tattnall counties. He can be reached at 404-656-0089 or by email at tommie.williams@Senate.ga.gov.
 

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