By: Brian Sikma
As Americans gather with family and friends across our great nation to celebrate the greatest of our national holidays, it is a good time to reflect on where we as a people have come from, and where we are going. Nothing will stifle the possibility of our future success as a nation as much as a careless ignorance of our past. Similarly, a knowledge of our heroic and vivid history will inspire us to dream bigger dreams and tackle still greater challenges. History is not created in a vacuum.
Perhaps the greatest dream that we can have is to preserve this liberty that we enjoy so much today. The process of preserving and perpetuating liberty is not passive, but active. It demands a consistent series of actions on the part of individuals and local communities. It is a trust that should obligate every man, woman, and child in our country. It has been often said, and it cannot be said too often, that freedom is only one generation away from extinction. If anything, recent political and social developments remind us of just how fragile our experiment is.
When our founding fathers solemnly covenanted with one another and the millions of people looking to them to expend their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” in the defense of independence, they were standing for something far greater than themselves. Personal comfort and economic expedience all argued staunchly against independence. But deep in the soul of each man who, in effect, signed his own death warrant by signing the Declaration of Independence, was an unwavering commitment to a higher law. This higher law was referred to as “the laws of nature” and it declares that rights flow from the Creator, not a king, Parliament, or charter.
As Americans survey the landscape around them today, and see an ever expansive government attempting to become a social safety net for every individual, organization, and business, they should be skeptical about the direction of the country. Our present leaders have wondered from the path trod by our founders, and by the millions of everyday Americans who followed in their footsteps and forged our land. By simply returning to that path, that course of liberty lighted by freedom’s unfailing flame, we can once again return to a better day.
Just as our founders declared independence from England in 1776, we in our day must declare a new independence from the all-encompassing grasp of big government. This second declaration of independence must be preceded, or at least accompanied, by a great spiritual reawakening. Setting the stage for the political revolution of our founding was a nationwide awakening towards private virtue and deep spiritual values. A return to first principles in the public sphere must be paralleled by a return to individual virtue and personal responsibility.
Unless we understand the moral questions of what is right, what is wrong, why absolutes matter and why our rights are not universally true because an international body happens to say so, a return to first principles will be a futile exercise. We must commit now to building not a facade, but a strong structure with a sure moral foundation. The construction of this foundation is preeminently a personal, and not public, endeavor. To preserve liberty in our day, we must return to political first principles and personal responsibility coupled with individual virtue.