• We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately. -Benjamin Franklin, Freedom Fighter

  • We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. -Martin Luther King, Jr., Freedom Fighter

  • Let us be cautious in making assertions and critical in examining them, but tolerant in permitting linguistic forms. -Rudolf Carnap, Philosopher

  • A clash of doctrines is not a disaster—it is an opportunity. -Alfred North Whitehead, Philosopher

  • If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Poet

  • Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. -Rumi, Mystic

  • If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. – Rene Descartes, Philosopher

  • A house divided against itself cannot stand. -Abraham Lincoln, President

  • Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. -Albert Einstein, Scientist

  • Be the change you want to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi, Freedom Fighter

Independence Day, 2006

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.Declaration of Independence
July 4, 1776

July 1, 1776 on a hot and humid Philadelphia summer day, John Adams of Massachusetts was locked in debate with Pennsylvania’s John Dickinson over whether the 13 American colonies should declare their independence from Great Britain.

Dickinson was the leader of the Pennsylvania delegation. He was not opposed to independence, but felt we needed to do more to reconcile with the King. He argued that to proceed with a declaration of independence would be “to brave the storm in a skiff made of paper.”

Adams would have none of it. He had become convinced of the necessity of independence fifteen months earlier when British troops had fired on colonists at Lexington and Concord in the “shot heard round the world.” In the intervening months he had seen how the Crown had ignored several entreaties by the colonists to settle matters amicably. He had seen the British fleet in Boston harbor and he had seen British ships attempt to sail up the Delaware River to attack Philadelphia. To Adams, reconciliation was not possible.

In one of Abigail Adams’ letters to her husband she had offered some favorite lines of Shakespeare:

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.
Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat.
And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.

This was Adams frame of mind as he rose from his seat to answer Dickinson. His message was strong and it was clear: “We are in the very midst of revolution, the most complete, unexpected, and remarkable of any in the history of the world.”

The revolution continues today. The tide of 1776 is once again poised at the flood. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are under attack, from enemies without and modern-day Tories within.

America must secure our safety in a world containing Al-Quada, an aggressive Iran, and an antagonistic North Korea.

And we must secure our liberties from extremists, both those on the far religious right who seek to impose their version of the Christian God on us all and those on the far radical left who seek only to tear us down, not bring us together.

While securing our safety requires a strong defense, it is no more sufficient today than it was in 1776. We won our independence not only by the force of our arms, but by the inspiration of our vision. It is a vision that continues to inspire us today.

The American vision is the vision of freedom, the vision of hope, the vision of justice, the vision of peace.

The American vision is the vision of the Declaration, 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.

The American vision is the vision of John Adams, There must be decency and respect … for persons of every rank, or we are undone. In a popular government, this is our only way.

The American vision is the vision of the Preamble, We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.

The American vision is the vision of Lincoln, with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in … to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations, a vision that Government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the Earth.

The American vision is the vision of Martin Luther King, Jr, we will transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

The American vision is the vision of Thomas Paine, the cause of America is, in a great measure, the cause of all mankind.

The American vision is a vision of deep spiritual and moral values, of values that find their origins in the common religious heritage of all humankind, of values that speak to the deepest yearnings of our soul.

Ultimately, it is the American vision that will win the hearts and minds of those who would deny us our liberties. It is only through living the American vision that we will win the elections that will secure our liberties from those who wish to impose their views of the world on us. And it is only through living our vision that, slowly, over time, we can even turn the sons and daughters of our most antagonistic enemies into our friends.

In February 1776, John Adams wrote to Abigail a phrase that George Washington would also often use: “We cannot ensure success, but we can deserve it.” The statement is as true for us as it was for them.

In signing the Declaration of Independence, prepared “to brave the storm in a skiff made of paper,” Stephen Hopkins of Rhode Island, who suffered from Palsy, is said to have observed: “My hand trembles, but my heart does not.”

Let Freedom Ring.

Copyright © 2006. Stan Stahl. All Rights Reserved. Permission is granted to republish this essay in its entirety provided its source is identified asThe Agnostic Patriot at www.agnosticpatriot.org and this copyright is included.

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