3 Actions You Can Take to Preserve Freedom on Independence Day

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When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he set into motion a series of events culminating in American sovereignty and the establishment of a government made for the people and by the people. He intentionally wrote the declaration so that America’s government would depend on our civic participation. 

Embedded in foundational American documents is John Locke’s idea that we give up our right to judge in exchange for impartial judicial systems that arbitrate for us. For example, Americans provide some income revenue to drive on functional roads. We submit to speed limits and “no trespassing” signs to live in safe communities.

In the United States, we have many freedoms and gifts that come from this exchange, but we often forget that it is, in fact, an exchange.

As Americans, we partake in a contract between the government and the governed, and there are certain responsibilities that come with that. Here are three examples of responsibility we should remember on Independence Day.

1. We must stay informed.

Jefferson said, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” His quote is just as applicable today as it was in 1776. In the digital age, we can look information up at the snap of a finger, but we can also have the wool pulled over our eyes if we do not take the initiative to learn the facts.

We must educate ourselves like Jefferson said. Jefferson meant we must stay accurately “informed” about our nation’s past and present. This involves reading about our history and understanding how our government functions.

Although this information is widely available, most Americans do not read past the sensational headlines. We must encourage each other to read past the headlines to stay informed and educated about the goings-on of Washington.

2. We must participate and safeguard elections.

It is not a fundamental responsibility of any citizen to cast a ballot in any election, but many are now comfortable turning a blind eye to the recently highlighted issue of election integrity.

Free, fair, honest, and transparent elections make up the backbone of our democracy. If we allow our electoral process to lose validity and respect, then we begin the unfolding of all the systems that rely on it.

If we lose respect and do not honor the fully functional electoral system, a gatekeeper of our democracy, then we will lose our voice and see the consequences in all aspects of government.

3. We must have gratitude.

John Adams wrote in a letter to his wife, Abigail Adams, his wish-filled predictions for all future celebrations of Independence Day. In it, he said: “It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”

In other words, he is saying to go “all out” in celebration of America’s birthday. Why? Because we should be grateful that such a nation was born to uphold values of true freedom and virtue. Instead of celebrating in thanksgiving the many blessings we have, we burn flags and complain about what we do not have.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “With freedom comes responsibility.” The three responsibilities I list are small compared to our extensive list of liberties.

Enjoy this Independence Day with family and friends. But it would do us all good to stay well-informed, put aside any partisanship in defense of election integrity, and pause in a moment of gratitude and broad perspective for how incredible our country is.

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