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On Monday islanders will join Americans all over the country in celebrating one of our most cherished holidays. July Fourth is known as the birthday of America; a day we celebrate a bold move by 56 brave souls who represented the 13 original colonies to break away from British rule.

The document itself was penned by Thomas Jefferson and although the Continental Congress approved the Declaration on July 4, 1776, it was not officially signed for almost a month later.

Against all odds and even against reason, that Declaration told the world that “these united Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent sovereign states,” wrote Jefferson at the time.

This action was not fully embraced by all of the colonists, and the road ahead would be difficult and bloody at times, but the signers would beat the odds and set the foundation for what many would come to believe to be the greatest nation on earth.

John Adams, a signer of the Declaration, thought that Americans should celebrate a “great anniversary festival.” In a letter to Abigail his wife he wrote, “It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore,” wrote Adams.

Such was the passion of their beliefs by these founders . The freedoms declared by the Declaration and ushered into fact by the Constitution of the United States were secured at a great cost, but one which we look back upon as worthy of our sacrifices.

Our nation has walked a long path to where we are today, fought in too many conflicts where some of the best of our country have given their lives to maintain that flame which burned so strongly in the souls of those that would place their lives on the line by simply putting their signatures on pieces of parchment.

It is right that we might reflect back on the genesis of this great nation, the sacrifices given and the journey we have been on these past 240 years.

Yes, we have made mistakes and have paid a high price for those miscalculations. However, we have risen above those errors to right the wrongs that can only be attributed to being human and having flaws. We have, however, done many things right and have been mature enough to concede to our imperfections and institute the changes necessary to atone for them.

We are proud to be Americans and to be a people who have come to foreign shores not to conquer or acquire lands, but to liberate those that who have been oppressed and terrorized by tyranny and totalitarianism. We have been nation to send aid to those in need as they struggled with famine, floods and earthquakes.

We have been the people who have come forward with relief to assist those fighting the scourge of AIDS in Africa, polio in third world nations and hunger throughout the world. We are Americans, and our nation and the foundations of what we stand for lie in the vision of those 56 brave individuals who signed that wonderful document in 1776.

The meaning of the celebration we will enjoy on Monday is one that must be fully understood by every generation to come, for without an understanding of what Jefferson meant when he penned probably the most potent and consequential words in American history would place the foundations of our democracy in peril.

“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, that among these are, Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Happy Birthday America and may God bless the United States of America.

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