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What Cements Us As Americans On The Fourth Of July

July 2, 2017

When visiting Washington, D.C. this spring I had the opportunity to see for the first time the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution. To write that I was in awe would be a severe understatement. Reading and studying about our formative years has been a decades long passion.  To then view the actual results from the work of the Founders, left me sobered and reflective. Walking away from those foundations of our democracy, and then throughout the rest of our days at the center of government, I kept pondering the past and also the place in which we now find ourselves in 2017.

Though on July 4th we observe the words penned by Thomas Jefferson we also link the totality of the work done by James Madison, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and many others under the large historical umbrella of this holiday.

While many have argued, and I tend to agree though with caution, that the checks and balances placed into the Constitution will prevent the likes of a President Trump from undermining our nation, I also have to wonder if the citizenry as a whole has a firm grasp as to what foundations we need to protect?  At a time when civics is not truly appreciated in our educational curricula, and history is not taught in the manner that allows for the needed insight, is it any wonder that too many are not mindful of what needs to be fought for before it is lost?

So today I want to outline some of the notes I made at the end of each day in our nation’s capital, and in so doing, stress again the larger points our Founders would have us hold dear.

The idea of virtue, be it on an individual basis or one that comes from corporate offices or from the Oval Office, is one that requires our diligence. The idea of virtuous people in government was not lost on the Founders. Good character matters, and too often we settle for less than what we truly need in this nation. But as individuals we have a role to make this all happen. In our Republic, we have a responsibility to promote honest leaders in office who will make wise, fact-based decisions and to hold them accountable.

The idea of equality vies for competition for freedom when it comes to the Founders and the strong debates they had in Philadelphia.  There is no question that all Americans are created equal and have rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  The debate about the role of freedom vs. that of equality was central to the Founders and has not diminished. What cannot be forgotten, however, is that full equality in a society cannot exist without the equal application of rights.

It comes as no surprise to long-time readers of this blog that the role of free speech and our free press is of high importance.   The free and open exchange of ideas is essential to the workings of our nation. The press plays a crucial role in holding leaders accountable and keeping the public informed.  We must allow them to work without fear of retribution. What we have witnessed over the past 24 months has been frightful and dangerous.  And it must stop.

There must be—has to be—a government accountable to the people it serves. In order to ensure that our leaders work for our interests alone, we require transparency in governance. There cannot be the protection of material—such as tax returns of a president–that runs central to the actions that are taken for policy making but in the end has a potential for harming the nation.   We are a nation of laws and our commitment to its equal application ensures our safety and prosperity. No man or woman with wealth or status is above the law.

I have long been a strong supporter of the oversight responsibilities of our congress to make sure that there is a solid grip on the checks and balances between the legislative and executive. The Constitution established three distinct, co-equal branches of government.  All must act strictly within their Constitutional authorities to guard against the abuses of power.

This weekend is one where many have boats on a lake, burgers on the grill, and friends over for conversation.  And that is all grand.  But I happen to think that this particular July 4th is of such importance given the chaotic and dangerous situation in which we now find ourselves that it is necessary to ponder the ideas and hopes that drove the Founders to take the actions they did.  They seem like ideas that will always stand the test of time.  But that will only be the case if we know of them, treasure them, and secure them for the future.

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