The approaching July 4th holiday provides an opportunity to reflect on the remarkable events that occurred over two centuries ago that have a profound impact on our lives today. As a member of the American Baha'i community, I find myself thinking about what my religion has to say on this fascinating subject.
For Baha'is, the founding of the United States of America is considered a prelude to what is possible for the entire human race. The Baha'i writings state that this "stage which marked the emergence of a unified community of federated states" brought with it "the stirring of a new national consciousness, and the birth of a new type of civilization, infinitely richer and nobler than any which its component parts could have severally hoped to achieve." Written in 1936, the text goes on to say that the nations of the world stand at the beginning of an analogous stage in their own evolution.
Was it not widely and emphatically declared that the conflicting interests, the mutual distrust, the differences of government and habit that divided the states were such that no force ... could ever hope to harmonize or control?
And yet, so the moment came, when these colonies were united in a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
In 1912, Abdu'l Baha, the son and successor of the founder of the Baha'i Faith, travelled throughout the United States for nine months. On at least two occasions, officials in the U.S. government asked him what they could do to best serve their country and the world. His answer was that they should strive to apply the principle of federalism, the machinery of which had been successfully applied to unite the states of their country, to the world.
1912 was also the year that Woodrow Wilson campaigned for and won the presidential election. While many U.S. senators of the time and historians in succeeding decades regarded Wilson's fourteen points and the League of Nations as a failure, the Baha'i scriptures view these efforts quite differently.
An infant will fall many times after taking his or her first steps, but those steps are nevertheless memorable moments for the entire family. Likewise, through President Wilson's efforts, the nations of the world had taken their first baby steps toward a potential "United States of the World." A quarter century later, this process was extended a stage further by the efforts of two more U.S. Presidents -- Roosevelt and Truman -- in the establishment of the United Nations.
There will surely be more setbacks and hard falls still to come in this journey, just as the union formed in 1776 was shaken to its very core from 1861 to 1865, but sooner or later, everything from children to humanity eventually matures.
Writing of his vision of future celebrations of America's Independence Day, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail:
I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
His vision has been splendidly fulfilled in the centuries that followed. I wonder, though, if the vision might be even more dazzling than even John Adams anticipated. I wonder if in a few hundred years, children in a school in Nyang'oma Kogelo in Kenya will be studying how the events of July 4th, 1776 set the pattern that was eventually used towards a federated and united humankind. Well, in the case of this particular Kenyan village -- the home of President Obama's father -- this date has a very special meaning for them even now.