When asked, most of us can probably recite the first line of the Declaration of Independence. Our schools teach it to students at a young age, and those timeless words—“life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”—remain firmly ingrained in our minds throughout our lives. But the significance of what those words mean—and what the document itself represents—can easily lose its meaning if we do not remind ourselves of it from time to time. The Fourth of July is a great occasion to appreciate its importance.

At the time it was written and signed, the Declaration of Independence represented a fundamental transformation in the belief of the proper role of government. Human history leading up to that point saw government as a ruling body led by kings and monarchs that both provided for and controlled its people. All that society achieved was done for the good of the government—the government did not work for the people.

The Declaration of Independence eloquently outlined the belief that human beings are born with fundamental rights granted by God, rather than by a ruler. The words, “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” meant that people’s fundamental rights could not be stripped or altered based on which leader or party was in control.

What the Declaration of Independence meant, and what is clearly described in its second sentence, is that the government gets its power from the people—not the other way around. By placing such a strong emphasis on freedom, individuals were thus able to pursue their own interests—their own unique definitions of happiness.

What has resulted in the 236 years since has been nothing short of amazing. American ingenuity has been responsible for more advancements and innovations than could have ever been possible under a strong-armed dictator.

Our Founding Fathers likely could not have envisioned all that this nation would achieve, but their foresight, as well as their belief in the individual, made all of it possible.


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