Mount Vernon Two-hundred thirty-seven years ago, Thomas Jefferson put down his pen and sent the Declaration of Independence to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. It was a steamy July day and after two days of debate and edits they emerged with the document we hold so dear and celebrate this week. A philosophical treatise and declaration to King George, it begins “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.”
In 2013, we still hold these truths to be self-evident, but sometimes forget that these freedoms were mere philosophy in 1776 — no one had dared put it to the test before Jefferson. As our generation struggles with the definitions of “rights” and “equality”, both in the Supreme Court and in our own communities, we should take a moment this week to remember that these struggles are the very core of democracy. We are not the first generation to struggle.
One hundred fifty years ago, the first three days in July 1863, in a field in Pennsylvania, changed the course of the Civil War and U.S. history. The Battle of Gettysburg is referred to as the time when our country literally hung in the balance. But, we emerged from the Civil War and built a nation stronger than the one before. Just over 100 years after Gettysburg, President Lyndon B. Johnson stated, “This, then, is the state of the union: free and restless, growing and full of hope. So it was in the beginning. So it shall always be, while God is willing, and we are strong enough to keep the faith.”
As the daughter of an Army officer and wife of a Marine officer, I hold the Fourth of July dear, and I know that my neighbors and friends in Virginia do too. I will be celebrating this year with two parades — riding in the Dale City and Lorton parades with my good friend Sen. George Barker, and spending time with family. I wish everyone the happiest of holidays!