Published June 2009 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd July 4th:Reason for the Season Independence Day is here. It is our nation's birthday! The Fourth of July is a celebration of the day, 233 years ago, when our forefathers threw off the yoke of tyranny and declared themselves to be free and independent people.
What courage they had. With the signing of the Declaration of Independence, they had committed an act of treason against the British crown, and the British government had a history of crushing colonial rebellions. Benjamin Franklin was quite sincere when he remarked at the signing of the Declaration: "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."
Therefore, on Independence Day, we rightly celebrate and honor the incredible courage of these men as well as their tremendous vision.
What a collection of political talent they were. In addition to Franklin, there was Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Sam Adams, and John Hancock. On July 4, 1776, these and 51 other determined, patriotic Americans adopted the final draft of the Declaration of Independence, thus beginning the world's greatest experiment in government. And with the signing, these men established that "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" are not only "unalienable Rights" of all people, but that "Governments are instituted among men" to secure these rights.
As we celebrate this glorious day, however, we should never forget, as we say of Christmas time, the "reason for the season!" In the last line of the Declaration of Independence, the signers acknowledged their "firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence."
One of those signers, John Adams, wrote that the American Independence "ought to be solemnized with pomp, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, illuminations." But he also pointed out "it ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty."
Therefore, on this Fourth of July, I urge you to enjoy the picnics, parades, ball games and fireworks. But I also urge you take time to remember our forefathers, those brave Americans who paved the way for the rights and liberties we have today. And, I ask you to take time to thank our Creator with "solemn acts of devotion."
Happy Birthday America! May God Almighty continue to smile upon you, and forever bless you. In the words one of America's greatest poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Sail on, 0 Union, strong and great! Humanity with all its fears, With all the hopes of future years, Is hanging breathless on thy fate!
June 24, 2009