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Happy Independence Day!

‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

With these words, the United States of America declared its independence 248 years ago today as the greatest country on earth and with a unique and explosive creed among men. America is the closest thing to a classless society that has ever existed insofar as we have no landed titles, no nobility, no immutable family fortunes, and no impermeable social strata. In America, men and women may go as far as their courage and talents will take them.

We should not let the familiarity we may have with the words and phrases of the Declaration of Independence — its syntax and diction — blind us to the world-historical and revolutionary nature of its declaratory power. What we have in this document and in this creed is the American people limiting government and its officers to their proper place — servitude — and placing themselves under nothing but law, justice, and almighty God.

Being born an American is today and always to win the lottery of life.

We are still the nation of Elvis, Mark Twain, and the rhetorical brilliance of “I have a Dream.” Americans are still the people that produce giants such as Willie Mays, Thomas Edison, and Harriet Tubman.

Americans are still the people of Joshua Chamberlain’s “fix bayonets!” charge at Little Round Top and John Paul Jones’s “I have not yet begun to fight!” defiance and General Anthony McAuliffe’s sending back the one-word reply “Nuts!” to the Wehrmacht’s demand that the surrounded 101st Airborne Division surrender at Bastogne.

Americans successfully defeated Communism and Nazism and the metric system.

We take inedible foreign cuisines and make them taste good. We invented airplanes and the internet and tater tots. Almost as an afterthought, we’ve spent 31 years keeping Canada from winning a Stanley Cup and, when we feel like it, we make time to defeat Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup.

America is planting the Stars and Stripes on the Moon — six times! America is Adrian Peterson lining up in the I-Formation and blasting Texas for 225 yards in the Cotton Bowl. America is ice-water and free refills at restaurants and rock ’n’ roll and blue jeans and the A-10 Thunderbolt. America is Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line” on a transistor radio and BBQ brisket and Friday night lights. America is Yosemite’s El Capitan, and Montana skies, and Central Park at Christmastime.

There are many things that are falling short of an acceptable standard in the America of 2024, this the 248th year of our independence from the rule of the House of Hanover. Our national finances are a mess. The press, the political class, and both major parties have proved to be sclerotic, venal, and shortsighted.

But America remains a fertile seedbed for renewal. And the citizenry still retain a boundless capacity for surprise, and reform, and rejuvenation. Already, in small and disparate ways, Americans are turning to the usually quiet and under-the-radar work of restoration.

Americans do this work — and they do it from the bottom up — because they are a free people. And they are a free people because they are Americans living under our Constitution.

No one thought it would last this long. No one thought we could govern ourselves — on our own without the benefit of noblesse oblige to guide us. But we have. For 248 years, the United States of America has pressed on, building an empire of liberty on our continent.

We ain’t perfect, but we are every day building a more perfect Union. A Union that, in Reagan’s words, is “still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.”

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