The United States of America holds a unique place in the world and not because of our military or economic might, not even because we control a diverse ocean to ocean land mass. America is unique and special because of our founding and the principles that brought us into being. In the midst of the primary season and bitter political campaigns it is good to be reminded of this. We ought to stop and reflect on how we are insuring that our rich heritage is not only remembered in history books but is alive in our culture.
The Founding Fathers of the United States asserted their claim to freedom and independence on the basis of certain “self-evident” truths about the human person: truths which could be discerned in human nature, built into it by “nature’s God”. Thus they meant to bring into being, not just an independent territory, but a great experiment in what George Washington called “ordered liberty:” an experiment in which men and women would enjoy equality of rights and opportunities in the pursuit of happiness and in service to the common good. Reading the founding documents of the United States, one has to be impressed by the concept of freedom they enshrine: a freedom designed to enable people to fulfill their duties and responsibilities towards the family and towards the common good of the community. Their authors clearly understood that there could be no true freedom without moral responsibility and accountability, and no happiness without respect and support for the natural units or groupings through which people exist, develop and seek the higher purposes of life in concert with others.
The American democratic experiment has been successful in many ways. Millions of people around the world look to the United States as a model, in their search for freedom, dignity, and prosperity. But the continuing success of American democracy depends on the degree to which each new generation, native-born and immigrant, make its own the moral truths on which the Founding Fathers staked the future of your Republic. Their commitment to build a free society with liberty and justice for all must be constantly renewed if the United States is to fulfill the destiny to which the Founders pledged their “lives…fortunes…and sacred honor.”