OUR VIEW: July 4th requires America’s participation

Happy birthday, America. This is the occasion when we commemorate names of real people being placed on the Declaration of Independence, and sometime between parades, barbecues and fireworks, are usually reminded by someone to ponder the significance of this proclamation.

It was 236 years ago that 56 risk-takers representing 13 colonies scratched their signatures on a piece of parchment, opposing what had become out-of-control big government.

Popular history marks them as heroes, which they were. Unfortunately, the course of time waters down the challenge involved in their going public, and softens the determination these men had to take a stand and launch an experiment with no guarantee of success.

More than two-and-a-quarter centuries of developed traditions make signing a document of this magnitude sound easy. After all, what red-blooded American wouldn’t endorse it? Right?

That question is comfortable to answer only because we have the liberty to look back as the descendants of victors. The truth is this act was assuredly frightening for each signer and his family.

It took genuine courage to risk property, career and even their lives by inking those names for all to see – and not all colonists were completely sold on breaking away from the only form of existence they had ever known.

The signers of this document simply said enough is enough. By doing so they committed themselves to a covenant of responsibility.

They chose to be responsible for themselves, and responsible to take care of their neighbors, without the expectation that a monarchy would do everything for them.

These radicals, and the people that selected them to represent their interests, insisted they could be responsible when facing challenges and discovering opportunity.

These were not career politicians, nor were they self-righteous rebels looking for the next popular cause to protest. These were leaders and learned people of their respective communities. Their numbers included 25 lawyers, 11 merchants, nine plantation owners, a teacher, a musician and a printer. Many signers were involved in multiple productive ventures.

They chose to risk it all, even their lives, believing they had to be responsible for their own destiny.

The message of independence has always been one of responsibility. It recognizes that limited government has its function. However, it honors personal accountability, abandons selfishness and is a social force that binds individuals in a common course of action for the greater good of all involved.

Independence provides the freedom to celebrate. It also challenges us to never surrender liberty for convenience.

Happy Responsibility Day.