When the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th, 1776, its signers knew that doing so would chance individual and collective disaster. Despite that, they wrote then signed the words, "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." They understood that the path upon which they had embarked could mean the loss of their possessions, their property, their families and even their lives; and in the end, they suffered losses that are beyond contemporary comprehension.
Yet, from that day to this, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans have risen to challenges that have immortalized the high ideals of the signers, withstanding the tests of politics, war and time. From its humble beginnings as a group of beleaguered and isolated colonies, the United States of America has risen to world preeminence. That did not happen simply because its founders inscribed their signatures upon that, now "sacred" document. It happened because the high ideals contained therein have animated the imagination of the American people, permeating its social fabric and national soul.
Every challenge to its sovereignty has been defeated, every attempt to stop the spirit of freedom that courses through its veins has been overcome, and every attempt to pervert its destiny has failed. The greatest danger to America is not from without, it resides within. It is the danger of unimaginable prosperity with undisciplined freedom and irresponsible behavior. Danger to America lies in pervasive failure of personal honor, honesty, integrity, trust, responsibility, and accountability. The danger to America is in forgetting that life is about people and in ignoring moral imperatives that are meant to guide the transient human experience. Yet despite these dangers, there remains bright hope in America.
The real American dream is not of riches, power, and position. The real American dream is of intellectual and physical freedom, freedom of the soul, freedom of hope, freedom of faith, and freedom to try; to fail; and, to succeed. For untold millions that dream has become reality because the founding principles were inscribed, hard fought for and won with the blood of hundreds of thousands of patriots; fiercely independent patriots who were, self reliant, and loyal to the common and priceless cause of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
The fog shrouded image of long lines of patient immigrants, bowed before the great Statue of Liberty, awaiting a chance to enter America is reminiscent of the ancient story of one whose hope for healing was only to touch the hem of the Master's garment; similarly, by merely entering here, the hopes, aspirations and dreams of countless millions might be fulfilled. Today, they remain in long lines, patiently hoping and yearning for the American breath of freedom and to realize their dreams of peace, security and prosperity.
Today, America's strength is not in its diversity, its great strength lies largely untapped, and is its potential ability to unify its diversity into a common vision and purpose. To the extent that political leaders pursue and exercise power acquired through divisiveness, America's potential is wasted. Conversely, to the extent that Americans pursue unity of direction and purpose; and as long as there are patriots who devote their intellect, talents, energies and lives to the preservation of the high ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence; so long as the Nation bears true faith and allegiance to the same; as long as it aspires to the high ideals, moral imperatives and unity of purpose set forth therein, the sacrifices of the heroic signers of that "sacred" writ will not have been in vain, and the American beacon will illuminate the world until the end of time.
Semper Fidelis. Robert Laurence Pappas, Marine.
June 6, 2000