For Release July 2, 2002

The 4th of July

by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

Iíll be the first to admit that Iíve been a flag waving patriot since I was in high school. I had the pleasure of living and working in Washington, D.C. during the summer of 1976. That experience certainly added fuel to the fire. Recent events, including the terrorist attacks last September and a month in Africa, have simply strengthened my feelings of patriotism.

One of the things that has long bothered me is this overwhelming desire, by so many people, to spend so much time attempting to define every single word in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Now Iím not a lawyer or a politician charged with applying these documents to everyday life, but it would seem to me a much fairer thing to try to understand the intent of the authors of these documents.

When was the last time you read the Declaration of Independence? I know, it isnít easy. Thomas Jefferson was an excellent wordsmith for his era, but they used a different language in those days. Even if you donít read the entire document, the first few lines are extremely powerful. Read on:

"WHEN in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.

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...."

Tom took a few well chosen words and put them into some of the most powerful sentences ever written. These sentences literally launched a revolution, started a war and have embroiled out country in additional wars. But theyíve all been worth it!

It is my hope that 226 years later, we havenít lost sight of some of these basic principles. We often become so wrapped up in each and every single tree that we donít see the forest. So goes it with attempts to define every word of a document and neglecting to put the words into thoughts and concepts.

There is so very much that we take for granted. We assume that we can speak out about city, county, state and federal government without fear of retaliation. We have the ability to travel nearly anywhere in this country on amazingly good roads. If we have the skills and the will power there is virtually no end to what any one individual can achieve in this country. Sure, the country and the government isnít perfect, but it is still a work in process. But the process can not work when there is a lack of willingness to be involved. When apathy and the whiner syndrome team up, we have a vocal group that does nothing to aid in the solution.

This 4th of July take the time to think about what you are doing to contribute to this ongoing experiment in government. Do you take it all for granted, or do you realize what a valuable treasure we have here? Do you get involved in voting, community service and community action, or are you a Monday morning armchair quarterback whoís quick on the advice and slow on the action? Itís a great country we have here, but without the involvement of the governed, it wonít continue forever!


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