"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, that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
Those divinely inspired words from the Declaration of Independence are as important and meaningful today as they were when they were written in 1776.
How would Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin and the other Founding Fathers feel about America today? Would they believe we are honoring their sacrifices by the way we treat the freedom they gave us? Or would they feel we had strayed from some basic principles?
It certainly would be appropriate this July 4, the 224th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, to first reflect on the nation's birth and then to examine ways that Americans as individuals can honor their heritage through positive actions.
The real greatness of the United States rests not on its size and wealth but on the caliber of its citizens.
And that was recognized by the Founding Fathers, who stated that the fate of the then fledgling nation depended on moral fiber, education, hard work and a commitment to liberty. But it takes more than laws, courts and government to keep freedom in place. Mostly it takes a disciplined people whose awareness of their "rights" is carefully balanced with a sense of personal responsibility.
That means more than just paying lip service to independence. It requires work, a sense of duty, a recognition of individual worth and a feeling of caring and decency toward others.
Fireworks displays, backyard barbecues and family outings are certainly appropriate activities for celebrating the nation's independence.
How Americans really feel about their independence and the debt they owe those who founded this great nation, however, isn't something that can be calculated by what people do on the Fourth of July. That can only be measured over time by how they treat and serve others.