By State Senator Roy Dyson (D-29th)
As we all are aware, the signing of the Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies occurred on July 4, 1776 - 232 years ago.
Fifty-six brave men, representing 13 colonies, affixed their signatures to the Declaration, fully believing that they may have signed their own death warrant. In order to make it a unanimously supported document, the four men, representing the colony of New York, abstained.
In signing the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin, a representative from the colony of Pennsylvania, is believed to have said, "We must all hang together or most assuredly we shall hang separately." Stephen Hopkins, representing the colony of Rhode Island, who suffered from palsy, is believed to have said, "My hand trembles, but my heart does not."
These brave men took the stand for fair treatment by England, their ruling nation and George III, their King. They rebelled against England's imposition of repressive and excessive taxes. And they did this in a time when nations and colonies lived under a monarchy. Even King George questioned how the United States of America could survive without the monarchical rule.
But the United States of America fought and won a revolutionary war against England, the mightiest nation of that time.
The Declaration, written by Thomas Jefferson, representing the colony of Virginia, became the cornerstone of the American dream which guarantees to every citizen the right to achieve his or her potential. The Declaration laid down the foundation of the U. S. Constitution, endorsing the fundamental principals we still uphold and strive to protect.
Over two centuries ago, I doubt if equal gender and racial rights could have been envisioned as part of the American dream. However, the framers of the Constitution allowed for the expansion of our dreams and the protection of our rights by leaving the document open to the interruption of the courts and referendum of the people.
The words, written by Jefferson, have the ring of poetry. "We hold these truths to b e self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their powers from the consent of the governed."
Although celebrated annually, America's birthday was not declared a legal holiday until 1941. Today, we celebrate the Fourth with noise and merriment of picnics, parades and pyrotechnics. These loud and bursting fireworks displays and marching bands contain little note of solemnity nor our gratitude for the bold courage of a handful of men who stood up to a mighty nation and declared our right to be treated fairly and govern ourselves.
Indeed, America was built on the truths of unalienable equal rights and "the consent of the governed," claimed in the Declaration of Independence. On the Fourth of July, this nation of 300 million people celebrates our declaration of independence and the birth of the United States of America.