The United States of America was born approximately 100 yards from the tree-shaded park bench on which I now sit. For months now, I had told myself that, should I have some extra time during a nice day downtown, I would leave my office and walk the block or so to our nation’s birthplace, if for no other reason but to walk the same grounds that our founding fathers had walked so many years before, sit where they had been seated, and reflect upon what they had done so long ago.
I wonder what they would think today, these great but imperfect men, of the throngs of people–Americans–who come from hundreds and thousands of miles just to see their houses, offices and places no more extraordinary to them in the late 1770s as my office is to me now more than 230 years later. I wonder what they would think of the man to my right, dressed in shorts and a golf shirt, manically telling stories of their everyday lives, of their hastened reality, of their dreams, setbacks and unfettered resolve to smiling tourists and wide-eyed children.
Of these scenes, of children posing for photos at the feet of a statue depicting little-known American naval hero John Barry, of the elderly woman proudly displaying the American flag–with more stars than fathomable at the time–mounted on the side of her wheelchair, our nation’s founders would indeed be proud. America was, and still is, a great experiment, and during the long days of the Revolution as congressmen awaited news from our forces in Boston, Brooklyn and, later, Trenton, I cannot help but imagine that there was much uncertainty about the future of such a fledgling nation facing such innumerable odds.
The men who walked here, talked here, sat here and dreamed of freedom from tyranny and oppression, the men who gave their lives for the cause furthered by those in the room not 100 yards to my left, may very well have been amazed by all of this, but doubtfully surprised.
Our founding fathers came here for a reason, designed America and her government through careful thought and consideration, wanting for the country and her people what England and the King had been determined to stifle, enjoin and eliminate. America, to them, was to be everything their previous country was not, and Americans were to be unequivocally blessed with and granted natural and soon-to-be constitutional rights which could not be enjoyed elsewhere.
Perhaps it is in that regard where many of those who signed the Declaration of Independence and, later, the United States Constitution here at Independence Hall would be so dissapointed. These men and their contemporaries gave their hearts and souls for rights which have today been largely taken for granted, whittled away or in some cases completely forgotten. After 230-plus years, America has no doubt departed drastically from our founders’ design; this, I believe, would be a difficult reality to bear.
America, by far, is the single greatest nation on Earth. Always has been, always will be. She is the last, best hope for the poor, the downtrodden, the oppressed. But this apple has fallen far from the tree, and our nation’s potential is hindered by such a radical departure from the ideas and ideals of those who sat here, worked here and lived here years before.
Our government is too large, too centralized at the expense of progress, the several states, and the people. Our culture is decaying, a result of God and religion no longer perceived as a cornerstone but as a crutch. Our status in the world is weakening, due in part to our beneficence, but largely due to our failure to muster the strength and courage with which this great experiment was undertaken, and our refusal to understand the ideals from which the country was born.
The founders of America knew war. They knew economic difficulty. They even knew Islamic terrorism. Obviously, they were also aware of the many ways in which everything they fought for could be perverted and tossed aside, but I fear that they would nonetheless be alarmed and dismayed today at the effort put forth by some Americans to undermine everything for which the country stands.
Sitting here this afternoon, the weather is perfect. Our founding fathers, with whom I came here to sit and connect, were not. That alone is why it is so necessary that common, everyday people like you and me stand guard, keep watch and, if necessary, rise up and fight for