by Mike McPartlin, Headmaster, Bridgedale Academy
What does it mean to be a nation?
The word “nation” comes from the root word for “birth.”
Compare the words natal, nascent, native and nativity; all relate to things being born.
A nation, therefore, is something that has come into existence - A Nation is Born.
The United States of America is unique in all of human history.
It is unique for many reasons, one of which is that, like a human, it has a birth certificate.
Our nation’s birth certificate is the Declaration of Independence.
Our character as a nation, imprinted on us at our birth, is embodied in the core principles, in the self-evident truths, stated in the Declaration of Independence.
These core principles include:
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
That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men
deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed
That whenever any Form of government becomes destructive of these ends
it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it
Today, our nation's core principles are under attack!
The founders called these core principles self-evident truths. They regarded them as universal, eternal truths, applying to all people in all nations at all times.
Many Americans today, however, reject this notion, believing the principles enunciated in the Declaration to be outdated notions from a highly flawed era in our nation's history.
And so today we see these principles openly attacked, including by many of our elected leaders who say they want to remake or fundamentally change the nation into something else.
It is not entirely clear, however, what that something else is.
In my opinion, our nation's core principles should be revered and, especially during this challenging time, revisited and reaffirmed.
They certainly should not be weakened or, far worse, abandoned.
Two speeches make the argument
The arguments in favor of adhering to our nation’s founding principles are many. None are more erudite than the speeches noted below, made by two of our former presidents:
If you are unsure about why the principles in the Declaration of Independence are so very important to us as Americans, and so very worth defending, these great speeches will put things in perspective for you and, I expect, remove any doubt.
Lincoln’s address came during our “great Civil War.” He spoke his immortal words in 1863 at the dedication ceremonies for a cemetery located in Gettysburg, PA for the soldiers who’d died there.
His famous introductory words “Four score and seven years ago” refer to the year 1776 and the Declaration of Independence, which “brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
The war was a test of "whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”
Lincoln concluded his speech with this sentence: “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
A lot there - and profound indeed.
Coolidge 4th of July Speech
Coolidge gave his speech in Philadelphia in 1926, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Declaration.
He spoke brilliantly about the history and philosophy that led to its signing, and then said “About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful.”
Added Coolidge: “If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final.
"No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people.”
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Mike McPartlin, Headmaster, Bridgedale Academy
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Kristi Florey, Bridgedale Math Teacher