Ragan Independence Day Speech
As we approach our nation's birthday, it is good to reflect on what it means to live in America today compared to over two centuries ago. In that bygone era, our founders pledged their fortunes, their lives and their sacred honor to the concepts of human liberty and self-government.
Is it any wonder that our founders, as well as both critics and supporters around the world, called our nation the "Great Experiment?" What made it so was the heretofore unheard of idea that that government of the people was to be by the people. Moreover, it was an idea that the common man could not only govern himself as an individual, but that he could also govern himself and his fellow citizens through the elected representatives of a republic.
Obviously, ours was not the first republic. The Republic of Rome had preceded our founding by nearly two millennia. Ours was not even the first English-speaking republic. Oliver Cromwell had briefly established one of those when Jamestown was still a new colony where he could exile his political enemies when they opposed him too successfully.
Nonetheless, the American republic was unique in that it was based upon the premise of a government limited in its powers. This government held individual rights for the common man to be Divinely bestowed gifts, not petty inconveniences that could be arbitrarily discarded at a ruler's whim. Every citizen, regardless of class or wealth, was held to be equally subject to the law's protection and requirements.
However, there was, and, is, an essential ingredient required for this "Great Experiment" to continue successfully. John Adams defined that critical necessity when he observed that our constitution is only for a moral people and totally unsuited for any other.
Morality is a set of rules we impose on our own behavior. It is forcing ourselves, through our own self-discipline, to avoid doing what we know is wrong and choosing, instead, to do what is right. Thus, morality is the most basic form of self government. Obviously, John Adams' commentary is, but, a reflection of this reality.
However, President Adams' observation forces us address some very difficult questions if we are to ensure the survival of our republic. Is it moral to countenance transgressions of our laws by others that result in serious harm to our fellow citizens?
Is it moral to intentionally keep ourselves ignorant of how our government is executing the role that we, the people, have assigned it? Is it moral to stand by idly refusing to participate in even the most basic level of our government?
Now is the time for all citizens to "step up" to our duty, to diligently seek information beyond that which "handed" to us in the press, to study the positions of those who would be our leaders, and to "choose wisely." It is our moral duty.
In the words of Robert E. Lee, "You should always do your duty. You can never do more, and you should never wish to do less."