The 2nd of July will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to Almighty God. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forth forevermore.
~John Adams in a letter to wife Abigail, July 2, 1776

History, or rather our knowledge of it, is a funny thing: The legend that takes on a life of its own can seem, on the surface, to be more interesting than the truth, yet the truth is what teaches us important lessons about character, the nature of man, and ultimately about whom we should be. This is certainly true about American history, for which many citizens fail to have an appreciation due to a lack of civic knowledge that makes them vulnerable to the relentless efforts by the Left to tarnish those who came before us and showed more intellectual heft, character, and wisdom than any generation since. With utmost respect to those who fought in World War II, "The Greatest Generation" was they who lived nearly 200 years prior. Generations who followed the Founding Fathers knew dedication and sacrifice for others; nevertheless, no men before or since the Founders have risked and sacrificed so much for the benefit of the generations who followed. The WWII generation saved the world---the men of the American Revolution created a new world.

John Adams believed that what would become known as Independence Day would be celebrated on July 2nd. In 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted to declare independence from tyrannical King George III and Great Britain. It was on July 4th, however, that the Continental Congress formally adopted the text of theDeclaration of Independence. The Declaration became official only when most delegates signed it on August 2, 1776.

The significance of creating and signing this remarkable document seems lost on current generations who think of July 4th in terms of cookouts and fireworks. Declaring independence from Britain was an act of treason, punishable by death, and well the Founding Fathers knew it.Stephan Hopkins of Rhode Island declared as he signed with a shaking pen, "My hand trembles, but my heart does not." Benjamin Harrison of Virginia toldElbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, "From the size and weight of my body I shall die in a few minutes, but from the lightness of your body you will dance in the air for an hour or two before you are dead."Yet there they stood, signing,"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."

Much has been written of the suffering of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. Stories have circulated about the loss of fortunes and families; some stories are exaggerations designed to inspire, some stories are efforts to denigrate these remarkable men by pointing out that many lived in elevated circumstances (Does it never occur to these couch-potato critics that such wealth provided an excuse for doing nothing?), while the truth is, again, more interesting:Allof these sober men of principle, risking all they had and might ever have for liberty, in fact sacrificed peace, safety, security, and wealth in support of their principles. And their efforts were shared by hundreds of thousands of colonists who yearned to live free of tyranny.

As I stated last year, Independence Day is my favorite non-religious holiday (although to me, it is also a religious holiday, worthy of both the solemnity and celebration John Adams foresaw). The gift our forebears bestowed on us--the greatest liberty ever known to mankind---through their courage, wisdom, and commitment has benefitted the entire world immeasurably. How this cannot be the world’s favorite holiday is beyond me---too few people value that which they have not earned, and fail to see just how much they have benefited from the sacrifice of others.

A perusal of history has shown the late Ronald Reagan wasright: Liberty is never more than one generation from extinction. And in the immortal caution from John Adams, "A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever."It is my dearest hope that as this country edges ever closer to tyranny, the mantle of cherishing and protecting liberty will be assumed by my generation and those following, and we will never again allow anyone to treat heedlessly that for which so many have risked and sacrificed their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor.

~Shyla Lefever