We hold these truths…

Stratford Hall Plantation

On this day in 1776, the Lee Resolution proposed by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia was passed by the Second Continental Congress and resolved that the Thirteen American Colonies were “free and independent states” and no longer subjects of the British Empire.

The formal resolution, The Declaration of Independence was officially announced two days later on July 4, 1776. Presumably because they wanted a three-day weekend.

I could be wrong.

Recently I discovered, if Ancestry.com is to be believed, that I’m a direct descendant of Richard Henry Lee. I’m still sorting out the details.

Relax. Marse Robert was a (much) distant cousin.

As bad as things get sometimes, what the Continental Congress did that week gave us the freedom to strive to be better.

No, they were far from perfect. Yes, they had a lot to learn.

No, we’ve still not reached perfection. Yes, we still have a lot to learn.

But they set in place a system of government that has allowed us to have these struggles over the years.

Without this system, we’d not even be at the place of realizing how deeply flawed we’ve been.

I believe in this country. I believe in the American dream. The American ideals of democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality.

I believe we have work to do.

Ronald Reagan often referred to the United States as a “Shining City on a Hill.” In his farewell address he said:

Our spirit is back, but we haven’t reinstitutionalized it. We’ve got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise – and freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile; it needs protection.

We’ve got to teach history based not on what’s in fashion but what’s important: Why the pilgrims came here, who Jimmy Doolittle was, and what those 30 seconds over Tokyo meant. You know, four years ago, on the 40th anniversary of D-Day. I read a letter from a young woman writing to her late father, who’d fought on Omaha Beach. Her name was Lisa Zanatta Henn, and she said, we will always remember, we will never forget what the boys of Normandy did. Well, let’s help her keep her word.

If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are. I am warning of an eradication of that – of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit.

Reagan was right. We need to teach our history. And, we need to teach the good, the bad, and the ugly.

We wash it away at our own peril.

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