By Rep. Darrio Melton
This weekend my family celebrated the 4th of July. Like many of you, we came together, ate barbecue and watched fireworks. But Independence Day means more than hot dogs and fireworks–it’s the day we celebrate severing the ties with the King of England to form a new democracy called the United States of America.
On July 4, 1776 representatives from the 13 American Colonies came together to declare their independence from the British Crown; creating for themselves and their posterity a free, prosperous, and independent nation.
At the top of the Declaration of Independence sits one of the most well-known sentences in American history: “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, and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The last line of our Declaration is far less well-known, but equally powerful: “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.”
Today I reaffirm that pledge that our founding fathers made to each other.
In 1789 the Continental Congress created our Constitution. Two years later our nation enshrined our most fundamental liberties in the Bill of Rights. Those rights have created the backbone the world’s first modern democracy. These liberties have lit the world for over two centuries and created a model copied the world over.
The Founding Fathers created the promise of freedom. It would take generations of struggle and sacrifice to realize that promise.
Over the last 238 years many great Americans would toil to make this a more perfect union. Ending slavery, creating universal citizenship, and universal suffrage were profound acts of patriotism.
In the last century alone we have defeated fascism in Europe and Asia. We broke the sound barrier and reached into the heavens. We established the rights of minorities, women, and labor. We have proved time and time again that when this country has a common will to do something we can achieve anything.
But, our work is not done. Too many people struggle every day. We need to create opportunity so that everyone has the same chance of success and that hard work is well rewarded. We need to create a country where fairness and justice is the guiding principles of American life.
I hope you enjoyed Independence Day. I hope you hold these values close to your heart for the rest of the year. May God bless you all and may He continue to bless America.
Darrio Melton is a democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010.