We are a nation of immigrants. Adventurers. For most of us, our forefathers crossed oceans and weathered many storms to reach this land. This “New World.”
We are a nation of immigrants. We came from all over - England, Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Mexico, Israel, Iran, India, Egypt, Russia, China, Japan… the list goes on.
We are a nation of immigrants. But when we and our parents came to this land, we learned to define ourselves not by who we were, but who we became.
We became Americans.
We became part of a new society, a new people. We were not defined by our past, but by our future, and we looked forward to a future where our children would be raised as Americans, where they would know peace and prosperity in a land where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were defended.
236 years ago, our founders penned some of the most important words in the history of this great country – “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...”
For a nation of immigrants, this represented the most remarkable human achievement in the history of the world. Aware of the histories of the great civilizations of the past – Egypt, Greece, Rome, England – our founders understood that governments should exist to preserve basic rights – rights that were understood by even the common man to be innate and unalienable.
Our forefathers were survivors – men and women who understood what it meant to have little or nothing. They were a people who had much because they understood how much they had. All they wanted was life. All they wanted was liberty. All they wanted was the ability to pursue happiness. They came with faith that the American government would protect those rights, which were not granted by government, but granted by their Creator. America stood as a beacon of hope, truly as a “city on a hill,” whereupon strained the eyes of all people, as John Winthrop famously preached in 1630 as the people on board the Arbella prepared to plant a new society in the New World. This city on a hill stood for freedom and for liberty. It stood for Independence.
Today, we have largely forgotten the words of our forefathers. Creator. Unalienable rights. Life. Liberty. Pursuit of Happiness. Consent of the governed. These have all been lost in some fashion or form.
We no longer acknowledge our “Creator” as the God of the Bible, as our founders did. Instead we portray Him (if at all) as some “being” that stands aloof from this world. In fact, we have a closer connection to “Mother Nature.”
We deny the idea that our rights – any of them – are “unalienable.” Any rights that we have are those which the government grants, not recognizes and protects.
We deny a right to “Life” – willingly funding and supporting the abortion of thousands of innocent unborn children every day.
We deny a right to “Liberty” – seeking more and more to grow our federal government and create more expansive government programs so that we the people can spend more time suckling from the nanny-state government we have created for ourselves. We forget that Liberty involves having the freedom and even the responsibility to strike out on our own – to make mistakes or to strike it rich. Liberty involves freedom of choice of the individual – not liberty for the government to decide what is best for you.
We deny a right to “pursue happiness.” Happiness is only found when we as individuals learn basic personal responsibility – when we learn to be content with what we have and what we can achieve. Happiness is not bound up in equality, although liberals will assure you that if you can just be as wealthy as the next guy, then we would all be truly happy. No, happiness is found in contentment, and we’re only content when we can responsibly achieve that which we seek after and strive for.
We deny the idea that our government exists to protect the rights mentioned above with the power provided from the “consent of the governed,” NOT from whatever loopholes might be found in a document of guidelines provided two and a half centuries ago.
So where do we stand? We stand in denial of these truths so self-evident to our forefathers, only 236 years ago. We have chosen to become a society of takers, not makers. We have reached the point where 20% of Americans get 70% of their livelihood from the federal government. Another 20% get 40% of their livelihood from the federal government. 46 million Americans are on food stamps today. So I ask you: Is this a society of liberty? Is this a society built on freedom?
As Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has put it, we have two Americas before us: the American Idea of an “opportunity society,” or the European Idea of a “cradle-to-grave welfare society.” Which one do you think is going to win out? Which one is based on the self-evident truths of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness that our forefathers wrote about in declaring independence from England?
As we continue to celebrate our independence this year – 2012 – let us hearken back to the days of true independence. Let us remember the ideals upon which an entire society was built. A society built by men and women who were immigrants. Men and women who fought to have a chance to live a life of freedom – to live a life without oppression. Let us remember that there are good and true ideals which we have a responsibility to defend and protect, even when our government fails to do so. And when our government falters, “we the people” have a right and responsibility to stand up and hold her accountable.
We are a nation of immigrants who knew how to fight – who knew how important it was to fight in order that we might be free. Now we who are free have forgotten how to fight, and the fire of true patriotism and liberty must be rekindled in our hearts. We are a nation of immigrants who became Americans. We know our past. We remember our past. But we look to the future. And for those who stand up for liberty and freedom, for limited government and personal responsibility, for “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” the future is indeed bright.
As President Reagan spoke in his State of the Union Address in 1986,
“Government growing beyond our consent had become a lumbering giant, slamming shut the gates of opportunity, threatening to crush the very roots of our freedom. What brought America back? The American people brought us back -- with quiet courage and common sense; with undying faith that in this nation under God the future will be ours, for the future belongs to the free.”