The United States was not perfect when it began, and it is still far from perfect today. However, if one constantly writes off America because of its failings in the past or present, then one misses the general point: America was born a nation to perpetually move forward.
Americans are a rarity in the world in that they identify themselves not by human categorization but by an idea forged 237 years ago in the Declaration of Independence. A state of mind as much as a state of being is what enables the United States to be the premier nation of nations.
Just as American independence required Georgia and New York, Massachusetts and South Carolina to join forces to win the Revolutionary War, we are each fundamentally dependent on one another in our own lives.
When the Declaration of Independence was drafted on July 4, 1776, religious practice in the 13 colonies of the United States was colorful and varied. The quest for independence -- as well as loyalist resistance to the cause -- permeated church life and teachings across denominational lines.
Each year on your birthday, I look back on our history. And while we have come from a humble beginning, I know we have a ways to go, before we achieve our founders' goal of being the United States of America.
Founding Fathers, you got it together by making a few compromises. How's it working for you now? The bargaining chips you played then -- slaves, women, Native Americans -- are still being played today.
Can we -- Americans of the twenty-first century -- secure those Enlightenment ideals of self-government for ourselves? It is fitting that we pause now, during this "Prelude to Independence," and rededicate ourselves to this nation's humanities heritage.
Both sides will trot out their heaviest weapons and we either will or will not get stricter gun control regulations. Whichever side wins, if this ends up being just about gun control, the public loses.
The president's calculation today seemed to be that the occasion presented a chance, perhaps a last chance, to recall the political system to what Lincoln, in his first inaugural address, called the "better angels of our nature."
It's one thing to articulate an audacious new vision for an embryonic democracy, it's quite another for Jefferson and his colleagues to actually make it happen -- given the fiercely independent mindset of the original colonies.