The history of humanity has been characterized by the strong and the few dominating the weak and the many. This domination has been based on brute force to be sure. But successful and cost effective control can only be achieved by controlling how people think. So for countless generations people largely accepted the rulers that were a part of their societies. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. A few people began to think for themselves. Of course this was not so funny to the kings of the world. The questions became annoying, challenging, and eventually frightening. Are kings really divinely appointed? Do kings really posses any special intelligence and knowledge that commoners don’t or can’t possess? Do these kings really deserve to inherit their status and wealth?
A band of merry revolutionaries, in a colony of the greatest empire of the day, came along and answered those questions in their own way. This band of lawyers, farmers, inventors, and merchants were far from perfect. They had economic and political ambitions that could be furthered by independence. Many had the personal hypocrisy of drawing on the money and leisure afforded to them by owning slaves. Despite all their flaws, they penned the greatest political documents ever produced. They rose above their own limitations, and the limitations of their times, and risked everything to establish a new country based on a different notion. That notion was,”…that 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, and that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Our founding fathers didn’t just establish a new country. They enshrined within a country’s ethos, its political rationale, its justification for existence, a principle that no man was more valuable than another. But radical and transcendent principles are only posturing, with their sincerity to be questioned, if nothing follows. After winning a most unlikely victory, against the greatest military power of the day, they then followed with another radical document, the Constitution of the United States of America.
“…that 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, and that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
They enshrined in the Constitution the mechanism to guard the people’s freedom from any number of tyrannies by enumerating the powers of the three branches of the government. They followed with the Bill of Rights that specifically named and guaranteed our individual liberties. One final action then firmly established the uniqueness of our country. Our first President, who was deeply loved, admired, and trusted, and who had been urged to establish a royal monarchy, finished his term and did something that powerful men rarely do. George Washington willingly and happily, gave up the power and prestige of the Presidency, and returned to his farm to live out his life.
This is what makes America exceptional! This is the shining city upon the hill! This is why the citizens of the world want the American experiment to succeed! What makes our country exceptional is the continuous striving each generation undertakes to realize the words of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. That striving is the American dream! Our role, like our founding fathers, is to look above our personal interests and nobly reaffirm and perfect the founding principles. Obviously we need fundamental change in our government. But we need a much more fundamental change in the way we think, act, and believe. We need to recapture our great country through unity of purpose, a peaceful revolution of the heart, and a steely conviction that breeds decisive action.