Posted by Courtney E. Howard
I was not the best history student; although I was interested in the subject matter, I found it challenging to remember all the dates and names. I was relieved when a professor would occasionally say we would not be tested on the dates as he covered material; and yet, as an adult, I cannot help but feel a little regret for not committing important events and dates in world history to memory. There is no mistaking the importance of July 4th, however.
In recognition of Independence Day, I wanted to share portions of a speech from Operation Tribute to Freedom (OTF; http://www4.army.mil/otf/)--an Army program designed to honor soldiers and give them opportunities to thank the American people for their support.
The speech, delivered in 2006 and titled "Call to Duty--Boots On The Ground," not only is inspirational, but also provides a little U.S. history refresher--which I always enjoy.
"On July 4th 1776, an assembly of brave and determined Americans announced to the world the birth of a new nation -- a nation borne of ideals rather than of coercion, where the power to govern rested with the consent of the people.
In Thomas Jefferson's words: '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.'
Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Livingston, Sherman...these bold colonists set in motion a radical experiment in democracy. As modern Americans, who have enjoyed these blessings for so long, it is easy for us to forget just how groundbreaking this experiment really was.
The Declaration of Independence signed by those visionaries caused panic in the capitals of Europe. The document was so revolutionary that King George III even ordered English churches to conduct prayer services against it. He also required his subjects to prepare for a war intended to abolish it.
But the declaration of independence also inspired enlightened men everywhere -- statesmen, scientists, philosophers, and theologians -- to abandon old ways of power and privilege and to embrace new ideals of freedom and justice. Slowly, they began to remake the world on principles that the founders believed were self-evident.
And the world has never been the same.
This, ladies and gentlemen, was the first Call to Duty. It ignited a firestorm and changed the world forever. And it was answered by America's sons and daughters, who fought and struggled to give birth to this new nation.
Today, amid fireworks and backyard barbecues, we reflect on the meaning of the Independence Day, and we pause to remember the tremendous effort and sacrifice of millions of Americans who have preserved that endowment of democracy in the past and for generations yet to come.
Two hundred and thirty years later, what does this day-Independence Day-mean to us as Americans?
For the Army and our Soldiers, this day is an affirmation of their Call to Duty, and a reminder of why they put boots on the ground ands risk life and limb to preserve freedom throughout the world. The Army was born more than a year before the declaration was signed in Philadelphia, on June 14th, 1775, as the Army was officially formed to be led by General George Washington.
For 231 years, the United States Army has played a vital role in the growth and development of our nation.
On Independence Day, it is especially important to focus on the many freedoms Americans take for granted...freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of choice..."