June 29, 2020

The Pursuit of Happiness- Independence Day Message

On Saturday July 4, America will once again celebrate Independence Day. July 4 has become the midsummer bash for Americans, a day for picnics, family reunions, baseball and fireworks. While these are all fun activities, it is important that we remember the significance of the day. This year as you celebrate please be mindful we are in the midst of a deadly pandemic and practice safety accordingly.

In May of 1775, the Continental Congress convened to begin discussion of the what to do about the fact that citizens of the thirteen colonies of the Americas were under the rule of King George of Great Britain yet, had no representation before the King. This meeting followed the first Continental Congress which had meet the previous year to begin laying the ground work for what would become the Declaration of Independence.

While the Second Continental Congress met through the summer of 1775, details such as raising an army, developing strategies and writing treaties were developed. On July 2, 1776, the Lee Resolution, which deemed the thirteen colonies a free state, independent of England was passed by the Second Continental Congress. Two days later the Declaration of Independence was written and passed. The colonists were already defending themselves before the documents were signed and finalized.  In April of 1783, the British would officially surrender at Yorktown, ending hostilities and beginning the building of a nation.

Once everyone was in agreement to declare our independence, the Continental Congress chose Virginian Thomas Jefferson to pen the Declaration of Independence.  It was this document that established our intent and our vision for a new nation. Jefferson’s eloquent lines include a phrase that has come to symbolize our nation in the statement "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 statement is the vision of what this great nation is founded on. Unfortunately we are still struggling to live up to those ideals 244 years later. Throughout the years we have made progress on our vision, only to see society slide back again and again. We should each realize the statement “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” is proof of the moral obligation we have to treating everyone as equals.

To achieve our vision of the pursuit of happiness, we the people we must pledge ourselves to the idea of life and liberty. That means being able to walk down the street without fear of attack based on the color of our skin, by the manner of our worship, because of who we love or any other categories others label us by.

Far too often we allow others to divide us into groups to serve their own purpose. In our lifetime all across the south you could find public buildings that had segregated bathrooms, segregated schools and segregated communities. Literally millions of Caucasian families lived in the same poverty as their African American neighbors, but were convinced their life was better because they could use the same water fountain as the wealthy. As a result many of those people felt their lot in life aligned with the wealthy land owner and so they voted the way their boss told them to. Using prejudice and hate, the wealthy served their own purpose while keeping all the families working on their property in poverty. It is hard to pursue life, liberty and happiness when you are not free to live your life without the fear of retaliation for standing up for your rights. This goes on today, especially in non-union work places.

These days particularly we should understand that none of us are all free, until all of us are free. We should all demand equal treatment under the law for everyone person regardless of the categories that society separates us in. Long ago those colonists fought to build a nation that guaranteed those freedoms for some, but today we must insure those freedoms cover all. Until this happens, there will be no freedom for anyone.

The wealthy used our differences to separate us in the Jim Crow days and today they are trying the same thing. Working class Americans must band together today to stop the wedge that is being driven between us and stand together united as one.

We should be able to resolve in our hearts and minds that the lyrics written by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, and Brenda Russell ring true. "None of us are free, if one of us is chained". This Independence Day, we must renew the promise that all men are created equal and because our democracy depends upon this.

On behalf of your Region 8 leadership and staff, we wish you all a Happy Independence Day and encourage you to be safe with your family and friends.

In Solidarity,

Region 8 Director Mitchell Smith








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