"The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America." Sure has some ring to it, even after all these years.
When the eloquent Thomas Jefferson finished writing his most enduring letter 231 years ago, he had to have smiled to himself. Even if Jefferson couldn't imagine the full extent to which the U.S. would grow and prosper, no doubt he knew the Declaration of Independence would change the world.
It will certainly come up in some conversations during backyard cookouts Friday, when we celebrate the date the document was signed in Congress. Most adults read it at least once in school or heard it read aloud.
Anyone not familiar with the Declaration should look it up at the library or go online to www.archives.gov.
In short, Jefferson, on behalf of the newly united people of the American states, gave King George III a royal tongue-lashing. In laying out a list of grievances, he told the king - ruler of the most powerful, best-armed empire in the world at the time - that he was a tyrant unfit to govern free people.
Reflect on that a moment. Jefferson and the rest of the forefathers knew delivering this message would make them wanted criminals in the king's eyes and subject to death if captured.
Nonetheless, "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," Jefferson wrote.
Another likely topic, since it seems to be on all of our minds these days, is the U.S. war on terror. Whether you agree on our government's aggressive policy on terrorism, the parallels of the first Congress's grievance with George III's rule and organized terror against the U.S. is clear: Terrorism is just another form of tyranny.
Although it remains to be seen if the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a wise move in the fight against global terror or a colossal mistake, our country is undeniably committed to combating terrorists who wish to hold us psychologically hostage. Take the time July 4 to ponder Jefferson's closing remarks to the king: "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."
We're all in this together, folks. And as the adage goes, freedom isn't free.