Opinion: July 4 – Celebrating the Soaring Human Spirit

By Gail Lavielle

State representative, Wilton, Westport and Norwalk

NORWALK, Conn. – As we do every year, this week we celebrate July 4 as proud citizens of a country whose history distinguishes it from all others. Although we affectionately call the occasion “Independence Day”, the day’s significance has grown far beyond the sundering of our long-ago colonial relationship with the British. We celebrate, in fact, something much more profound.

On July 4, 1776, no barricades were stormed. No shots were fired. It was not a day of action. It was a day of words and principles, a day of affirmation.

The Second Continental Congress had already voted two days before in favor of the colonies’ independence from Great Britain. It was on July 4, however, that the same Continental Congress adopted the final version of the Declaration of Independence, which explained the reasons for the vote and set forth the principles that would form the foundation of the new republic. On our national holiday, we commemorate the articulation of those principles, and we celebrate their remarkable power to endure.

What are they? Freedom: the right of everyone to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And the fundamental belief that governments,“deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” exist to serve the people – and not the other way around.

Two and a half centuries ago, in a world where most people had to accept the lot that fate had dealt them, these concepts were truly revolutionary. In a stroke of the pen, they shattered the notion of government as a barrier to aspiration and redefined it as subservient to the needs of a purposeful and active people made up of individuals engaged in the pursuit of their dreams.

Today, those principles are just as powerful as ever, and they are the source from which this country draws its boundless capacity to excel and prosper. As Ronald Reagan said so well, “Only when the human spirit is allowed to invent and create, only when individuals are given a personal stake in deciding economic policies and benefiting from their success – only then can societies remain economically alive, dynamic, prosperous, progressive and free.”

The United States of America was built on a belief in the limitless potential of the human spirit and the conviction that, unfettered, there was nothing it could not accomplish. That, above all, is what we celebrate on July 4.

And those fireworks that go off against the night sky? Think of them as a tribute to just how high the human spirit can soar.


One response to “Opinion: July 4 – Celebrating the Soaring Human Spirit”

  1. Rod Lopez-Fabrega

    ANOTHER LOOK AT THE 4TH: As we conclude this anniversary of American independence, it is interesting to speculate that our own American Revolution almost certainly fanned the smoldering tinder of resentments that set off four monumental conflagrations, incinerating the rule of kings and purifying three continents of rule by privilege. They were: The American, The French, The South American and The Russian with a possible Fifth revolution in the works, as we see in our daily headlines.

    Sparked by17th and 18th century intellectuals in Europe and America, the tinder was provided, we believe, by classical educations predominant in those times that idealized the birth of democracy in the cities of Ancient Greece, and later was set aflame by the philosophical movements of the 18th century. Known as The Enlightenment, these ideals encouraged the use of reason to scrutinize abusive cultural, political, commercial and religious doctrines and practices previously accepted in the Western World.

    While the full reasons for revolution are complex and not to be oversimplified, the premise can be set forth that our North American Revolution was the one that really worked almost from the beginning for all the reasons we know. One can speculate that this achievement, unparalleled in human history, by its example inspired the downtrodden and much abused French people to dispose of their kings. But we have read of the bloody and dismembering mess this entailed and the failed governments that followed, terminating in attempted domination of Europe by dictator/emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.

    It was Napoleon’s ambitions to add Spain and Portugal to his empire, combined with dissentions and weaknesses within the Spanish royal house that distracted Spain and took its attentions off its restive colonies in South and Central America, where the flames eventually spread under the leadership of enlightened and visionary Simon Bolivar and his concept of a United States of South America. Taking his inspiration from our success in the northern hemisphere of the Americas—through documented but unsuccessful pleas of cooperation made to United States President James Madison—Bolivar launched a bloody and painful attempt at unification of the continent which ultimately ended in internecine conflict and division.

    But Napoleon wasn’t finished playing with fire. One can only conclude that it was the inglorious defeat of his ill-conceived attempt to invade Russia that gave victorious Russian people the empowerment, coupled with inspiration from the shining examples of Western revolutionary achievements, sufficient strength and inspiration to overthrow their own privileged and powerful overlords. Of course, what followed was communism, its eventual dissolution and the advent of a form of Russian democracy yet to be set in concrete but patterned on our new Western doctrines and practices.

    Now, the front pages of our newspapers point toward a Fifth conflagration, its embers already glowing in the Middle East, disturbingly threatening to burst into a theocratic five alarm fire. We can only hope it will be quenched by the example of successful popular and secular rule by Western democracies and, in part as well, by the attractions of Western standards of living.


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