The birth of a nation

Published 5:18 am Wednesday, July 5, 2006

By By Richard Shelby
Throughout history, there have been moments that changed lives and defined societies – the signing of the Magna Carta, the discovery of the New World, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Today, we celebrate one such moment. On this day, July 4th, 230 years ago, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress declaring the Thirteen Colonies independent from the kingdom of Great Britain.
As we celebrate our nation's historic march to independence, it is important to remember that this was neither an immediate process nor one without sacrifice. However, seven years after our forefathers first claimed there desire for freedom, our nation, a new nation was born. Our countries earliest heroes persevered through numerous battlefield defeats, the harsh winter at Valley Forge, countless patriots killed and crippled, and defeatism among the population. The colonists endured freezing weather, lack of food, and the destruction of their farms and homes to carry on in the name of freedom. And they succeeded.
In the eighteenth century, the concepts we fought for – life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, and an elective government responsive to the people – were revolutionary. These ideas challenged the very heart of most governments and questioned the predominant belief that individuals existed to serve the whims of a monarch and the noble class. The new Americans embraced a concept that they considered to be universal: that all men are created equal and should be endowed with certain inalienable rights. For over two hundred years, our predecessors have fought for that idea and we continue to fight and die for that concept today. This battle is not simply to preserve those rights selfishly for ourselves, but to help others claim them for themselves.
Today, on our Independence Day, our armed forces fight for freedom and liberty for others. But they are fighting a new type of war. A war not against another country, but against an ideology that attempts to destroy all the values we hold dear. Yet thanks to the United States military, the ideals of freedom, liberty, and equality are spreading to a region that has been under the reigns of oppression for far too long. Like the colonial patriots who signed the Declaration of Independence and fought for our freedom, our service members today fight to leave the world a similar legacy of freedom.
Victory in this struggle will not come easily or quickly, but we must remain strong. We must endure. The enemies of a free and democratic Iraq are capable and determined, but so are the Iraqi people. The citizens of Iraq have demonstrated their courage and resolve and their desire to control their lives and their future. As we celebrate our nation's Independence Day, it is fitting that we also recognize the strides that are being made in Iraq. The call of liberty has come, and the Iraqi people have stepped forward to claim their freedom. We must continue to be the beacon of freedom for the world. There is no one else to take our place.

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