Those two words belong together. Indeed, they have walked hand-in-hand for 233 years and the phrase has become so ingrained in our consciousness that we rarely ponder its meaning.
In 1776 it was a blood oath. Those who signed the Declaration knew that if their attempt at independence failed they would most likely face the gallows. If their dreams were shattered, so would be their homes, their families, and their reputations.
But they signed.
They signed because they believed in the concept that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are God-given rights, and that no one – no army, no king, and no nation – had the ability to hold those rights from them.
We still believe that.
We bicker among ourselves like brothers and sisters. But the true American spirit always surfaces in time of crisis, and we come together as a nation. That is when our character is revealed to the world. That is the real America.
Our national identity is manifested in many ways, but to me the most poignant and accurate portrayal resides with the American Soldier, Marine, Airman, Sailor and Coastguardsman in time of turmoil. They are fierce in battle, yet compassionate when lending a hand to the victims of tragedy.
Perhaps it is fitting that on the eve of our Independence Day, we witness the standing up of a new republic in Iraq. If that country makes it – if it can nurture the seeds of democracy planted by the American forces – it will be because its citizens were able to see through the cloud of tyranny that obscured their lives for so long, and catch a glimpse of a better life.
The life of the American.