Happy Fourth of July!

America is called a lot of things. Land of Opportunities. America the Beautiful. The Melting Pot.

But most importantly? America is known as the Land of the Free.

Freedom wasn’t easy.

Freedom is 342 chests of tea thrown off the side of three ships, marking the most epic tea party that the British missed out on. Freedom is the Battles of Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill, and every other battle that we’ve ever fought for our American rights. Freedom is our loved ones that serve this country. Freedom is why we shoot off tons of explosives every Fourth of July. It’s why we grill out, and take the day off of work, and enjoy good company.

So how did we get here?

Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Byron Edwards, has the answer.

nashville fireworks

Two Hundred and Thirty Seven 

By: Byron Edwards

“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.” On Thursday, July 4, 2013, these words of Thomas Jefferson will be 237 years old. For several reasons, they are remarkable words.

One such reason is that this marked the first time a people proudly announced to the world that the rights of all mankind came, not from monarchs or governments, but rather, from God. It was truly revolutionary for, by saying this, Jefferson was stating that neither a ruler nor a government could take away a person’s rights. If a leader or a government gave people their rights, then a leader or a government could take away those rights. Jefferson was emphatically stating, “No more. Not in America.”

Prior to July 4, 1776, most people in the world would have said that the Creator certainly gave them life but they would find Jefferson’s statement that He also gave them Liberty and the right to pursue Happiness somewhat strange and bewildering. What liberties American colonists had were granted by the King of England. But then, the Magna Carta in 1215 was the equivalent of a yield sign, telling the King of England to cut back. Now, all of a sudden, these upstart American colonists were rejecting the King’s authority to grant liberties and were claiming everyone’s liberties were a gift from God.

And totally surprising in the Declaration of Independence was the use of the phrase “the pursuit of happiness.” Jefferson was not stating that mankind had a right of happiness but rather the right to seek happiness. It’s an important distinction. As long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others, each individual has the right to pursue that which makes him happy. Jefferson said, “The glow of one warm thought is to me worth more than money.” He also stated, “I cannot live without books.” And “No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.” He loved to grow both vegetable and flower gardens. You can see what made Jefferson happy. What makes you happy?

As the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson played a large role in how we acquired the name, “Land of the Free.” He is often quoted as saying, “My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.” He believed in a small federal government – one that would respect each individual citizen’s freedom and rights.

This Fourth of July, as we grill out and as we watch fireworks, remember that the acceptance of Jefferson’s ideals required a victory in a long hard war with the British. And it required recognition by mankind that Jefferson’s words were true. They were not as “self-evident” to everyone in 1776 as they were to the signers of the Declaration of Independence. And today, on July 4, 2013, as you watch fireworks with your friends, family and loved ones, remind yourself that Jefferson’s words are as true now as they were 237 years ago.

 

 

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