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America's Independence Day

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America's Independence Day

Thank you for having me here today to celebrate our nation's birthday. Nothing brings people together like the 4th of July. America's Founding Fathers once said that years from now citizens will come together to celebrate this glorious day with feasts, pageantry, and fireworks. And indeed we do.

The War for American Independence united a nation of diverse people. But, soon after war's end, America once again split into squabbling factions. While leaders lamented this partisan activity, Thomas Jefferson put the split into perspective-"Every difference of opinion," he explained, "is not a difference of principle…We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists." Despite ideological differences, there was a public spirit that united Americans then and now.

There is no doubt that America is ideologically divided today. Our partisan splits have become bigger over the last few years, and even our rhetoric is more biting. Yet, our nation is also very united on core principles. The words of the Declaration are as meaningful and fitting today as they were 228 years ago. We believe firmly in the ideals that Jefferson expressed in the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and we have tried hard to live up to those ideals over time. We are a people who believe that all individuals possess rights and liberties that should be respected and protected, and that representative democracy is the best form of government to accomplish that goal. It is this creed that contributes to our national optimism, and it is this creed that draws so many to our shores.

Liberty is as revolutionary today as it was in the 18th century. There are many souls in the world who hunger for freedom, and a few who wish to deny it to them. Americans have done so much in our short history to help those who desire liberty, and to protect those whose liberty is threatened. Today, we are engaged with an enemy who fears freedom and democracy, and seeks to deny these God-given rights to others. There have been many casualties along the way, but their sacrifices are not in vain. We are safer because of their actions, and in place of tyranny and oppression we have brought people liberty and rule of law.

I was heartened last week when America transferred political authority in Iraq to the new interim Iraqi government. By ending U.S. control over Iraq's political affairs, America fulfilled its promise of returning sovereignty to the Iraqi people. This is an important first step toward resolving the Iraq conflict and getting our troops out of Iraq. The new Iraqi government, with the support of many countries, will hopefully prove to the world that democracy can prevail even in the most challenging political environments.

Throughout the world people yearn for the "inalienable rights" that Jefferson detailed in the Declaration of Independence. As we celebrate our Independence Day, we celebrate more than our own blessings of liberty. We celebrate the persistence of a timeless ideal that speaks to the world over 200 years after its founding.

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