As we get set to celebrate another Independence Day here in the United States, we should rightfully pay tribute the obvious courage that had to be exhibited by our Founding Fathers 236 years ago.  Many of these men had much to lose and only marginal personal benefits to gain by signing the Declaration of Independence.  They were already part of the established social and economic order and for the most part were beneficiaries of the existing system.  In fact, although we often hear about the select few who rose to historical prominence, most of the others suffered great personal hardship as a result of their decision.

Just think of the individual sacrifices each man had to make professionally, financially and logistically.   Moreover, it’s not hard to imagine the inevitable adverse impact this must have had on their respective families.   How many people do you know today, who would boldly sign a document that would put them in such grave jeopardy and make them instant perpetrators of treason against the most powerful nation in the world?   I will always admire John Hancock for leading by example and being the first person to offer his signature (and in such a dramatic fashion) – what courage!

Much is made today of our political divisions. There are rampant concerns that our long standing system of government may be broken and in need of a significant overhaul.  I’ll leave the practicalities of this discussion and debate to our congressional scholars. However, I do know this: 236 years ago a group of men with varied interests and philosophies, from diverse backgrounds, of different means and capabilities, and with much to lose, put the welfare of their fledgling country above their own.  At great personal risk, they literally put a historical “stake in the ground” and stood up for what they believed in.  Collectively, they committed to a series of fundamental principles and beliefs that laid the groundwork for our great nation and completely reshaped the modern political dialogue.  The following words literally changed the world:

“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, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.…”

To accomplish this, they agreed to “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”  Imagine if the political leaders of today felt this same way…

As you go about celebrating this Wednesday, I encourage you to take a moment and pay tribute to the courage that these men showed many, many, years ago.  As American citizens, we are all still benefiting from their willingness to put the greater good of their country and the “natural rights of man” above their own personal agendas.

Happy July 4!