Notwithstanding the divisiveness of the current political climate in the United States, as well as the countless ways that Americans around the world wish to celebrate this year’s Fourth of July, one must not be tempted to shun the true essence of Fourth of July– it was on the 4th of July, 1776, when the United States gained its independence from Britain, whereupon in just roughly two centuries it would become the most powerful nation the world has ever known. Owing to its rapid rise in a relatively short period of time, the Fourth of July is also considered one of the most significant days in world history. The Fourth of July is synonymous with the celebration of a nation that would forever be a paragon of inclusiveness, hope, refuge, and diversity. Unfortunately, the past few years have witnessed the insidious undermining of American identity, replete with divisiveness, ideological clashes, and hatred, and as such, it is of utmost importance to remind all Americans of how this nation came about, so as to preserve the true essence of being an American, as encapsulated in the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July.
Fourth of July, 1776
There is no better date to remind Americans this than on the Fourth of July. The Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July, 1776 formally created the United States of America. It declared to the community of nations that Americans have begun their ascent to becoming among the world’s powers, aided by the timelessness of its Declaration of Independence. It set the precedent upon which many nations would later model themselves after: the nation’s powers would be derived from its people, and when any one of the branches of government became an impediment to progress and to the well-being of Americans, the people held the power to abolish it and elect a new one.
Significance in world history
Throughout contemporary history, words to the Declaration of Independence have served as strong inspiration to peoples all over the world who desired independence from their colonial masters or oppressive regimes. Across the Pacific, in proclaiming Vietnamese independence from French colonial rule in 1945, Ho Chi Minh repeated verbatim the first few lines of the American Declaration of Independence. On the other side of the Atlantic in 1980, members of Poland’s Solidarity invoked the Declaration’s words to denounce Soviet control. In 1989, thousands of Chinese students in the Tiananmen Square protests read aloud its translated version in imploring the Chinese government to relax its grip on free speech and freedom in general. The declaration that gave birth to the United States of America on the Fourth of July, 1776 has truly become one of the most powerful political documents in history.
Significance in American history
Americans are now caught at a turbulent time, so a mention of the Fourth of July and the Declaration of Independence is only befitting. These two inextricably linked phrases have infused into American culture qualities that many Americans still wholeheartedly believe in and uphold – liberty, equality, and human rights, as well as the individual’s right to the pursuit of happiness. During landmark moments in American history, words from the Declaration of Independence came as a handy reminder, from abolitionists of slavery in in early 19th century to the birth of the feminist movement in Seneca Falls in 1848, to the civil rights movement in the 1960s. More importantly, it was during the Civil War, the most perilous period of the 19th century, during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln that the essence of being an American and the words to the Declaration had been exalted the most. Lincoln, in sheer admiration of Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration and eventually the nation’s third president, stated that the Declaration possessed an unquestionable trait that was applicable to all men at all times. After a century, civil rights champion Dr. Martin Luther King would draw inspiration from the timeless truth written in the Declaration. Suffice to say that during the most divisive periods in American History, the words to the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July always wielded the power to rally Americans together.
Remember the Fourth of July
The need to remember the Declaration and the Fourth of July is at its direst now in view of the times. The United States, despite its status as the world’s sole remaining superpower, is no nation-state of a homegeneous people. Every American has a unique cultural identity due to the nation’s makeup of many races and ethnicities - from first-generation transplants to the descendants of immigrants of centuries past. It must have been foreseen by the Founding Fathers that America would reach its current state, and thus their desire to “invent” the nation, along with its equally unique Constitution. Corroborating this statement was the pledge of the Continental Congress that they had no one but one another, greatly apt considering the reverse process by which the United States was born – it was a state before it was a nation, and a staggering chunk of its history has been dedicated towards finding that nationality. This runs directly counter to the formation of other nations – whose peoples already had a defined ethnicity and nationality before they banded together to forge nationhood.
Fourth of July: a timely reminder
Due to its unique cultural makeup, America will never be able to forge a distinct cultural identity similar to those of prominent homogeneous nation-states. Its diverse people will always have to depend on ideas, ideals, and principles to continue to exist and thrive as a country. That said, no other document in American history has the singular influence to unite the nation than the Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776. In the troubled and confused America of today, there is no contesting that a thoughtful reading of the Declaration of Independence holds the key to rally Americans together once more to redeem its reputation as bastion of liberty, opportunity, refuge, hope, and inclusivity.