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240 years ago today, in the midst of the American Revolutionary War,  one of the greatest and most inspired documents of all time was adopted by the United States Congress: The Declaration of Independence. It hardly requires an introduction, being one of the most well-known statements on human rights. The English philosopher John Locke is usually recognized as one of the biggest influences on the language that the Declaration uses, and it’s hard to miss the connection when you know about Locke’s idea that we have natural rights, namely life, liberty, and property.

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.

These words are monumentally bold—to declare that all men are equal, and what’s more, to say that to a king, whose very status is deeply rooted in inequality. The Declaration’s words echo through time, igniting a flame in the breast of millions of people. This flame is the flame of liberty, the flame which has breathed life into the peoples of nations all around the world–whether their countries are founded on liberal democratic principles or not. As inheritors of the flame, it is our duty to ensure its survival. And make no mistake, this flame will be extinguished if there are no torchbearers. The fight is never over, so we must never hide, and never rest.

On this day, as on all days, keep the flame of liberty alive. Have a happy Fourth of July!

 

I have been on this earth for 19 years, and not once had I ever felt that the United States was the greatest country in the world. All my life, I have never experienced a time of peace, prosperity, and freedom.  I live in an era of recession, restricted freedoms, and war. To many, my sentiment towards the country I call home may seem unpatriotic. This is not true. I am an outspoken critic of the United States because I am a lover of my birth country. I care for it. I speak up when we do wrong. I speak up when we do wrong, because I want us to do better. I want us to succeed; indeed, I want us to become the greatest country in the world. I am patriotic. Before my time, we used to be the leaders, the revolutionaries, and the free; the land we call home used to be the path to opportunity, prosperity, and liberty — but we have lost the way.

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Even amidst all the encroachments of big government, America is still one of the freer places on Earth. In the special “What’s Great About America”- aired this past Independence Day weekend – libertarian John Stossel surveys wide swaths of America to find out just what is so great about the United States.

The most important part for me was Stossel’s attempts to find out why people come here in the first place. In the special, he talks to many people who point to the basic rights we enjoy- freedom of speech, freedom of religion- as the draw for moving here. For others, it’s the wide open business climate with relatively few bureaucratic hurdles to capitalize on their ideas that proves attractive. And yet for many more still, America simply represents an opportunity to make a better life for their families.

With all the battles that still need to be waged here on behalf of liberty, it’s refreshing to sometimes be reminded of why freedom is so important (and so rare) in the first place.