One of the beautiful things about being a U.S. citizen is knowing when and why our nation was born. It’s why we come together every year on the Fourth of July, and we gather with our loved ones and friends to celebrate our nation’s birthday.

Thomas Jefferson sat through the sweltering summer heat in Philadelphia as he prepared our nation’s birth certificate: The Declaration of Independence. According to Historian David McCullough, he had no library or books to draw from because he wanted to put into words what he and our founding fathers already understood. Jefferson later recalled that he wanted to construct a document “not to find new principles, or new arguments … nor copied from any previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion.”

Rise to the occasion it did. The Declaration of Independence was not a declaration of war, the battle of Lexington and Concord had already taken place a year earlier. Our founders understood that they needed to convey something more important than independence alone. For our nation to survive, we needed a document that inspired us to reach for something much larger and more enduring.

Jefferson expressed the American conscience perfectly as he wrote, “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. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Nowhere in the world had those words been written before.

We are a nation founded by men and women who believed in a revolutionary idea – that the people of this country would grant the government its rights, and that every man, woman, and child has a natural right to a future of freedom. Almost 250 years later, the very same system of government stands as a shining example of the power of human freedom and dignity.

Shortly after our declaration was signed, celebrations erupted in the streets. The newly established Americans began parading through the town, setting off cannons as they went.

We know no one has to look far for patriotic celebrations in Nebraska. The J.E. George Parade in Omaha, parades in Ralston and Central City, celebrations in Omaha, Hooper, Madison and Norfolk, and, of course, Seward – America’s Fourth of July city will be filled people waving American flags proudly. And in communities and neighborhoods across the state, there will be picnics and fireworks for all to see.

When I think about the Fourth of July, I have fond memories of spending time with friends and family in Cherry County. We would often go to Merritt Reservoir for a day at the lake or canoe or tube the Niobrara River and then host our friends and neighbors for a barbeque. This year, I hope you and your family will have a day full of fun, happiness, and celebration.

Happy Independence Day. The power of human freedom is protected more in this land than anywhere else in this world. May we always remember that it comes at a cost and honor our men and women in uniform who stand at constant to defend the American dream at every turn.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.

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