Photo credit: Bev Sykes (CC-By-2.0)
Photo credit: Bev Sykes (CC-By-2.0)

Across our great nation, the Fourth of July weekend will be a time for fireworks, parades and barbecues. My hope is that while all Iowans enjoy the festivities, they will also spend some time this weekend cherishing what the Fourth of July is truly all about: our independence.

Independence is what our Founding Fathers sought 239 years ago. It is what they provided to generations of Americans when they proclaimed our country was free from the tyranny of the king of England.

Independence is what we still have and celebrate today.

When the Declaration of Independence was signed, our Founding Fathers shed the oppressive rule of Great Britain and created a true representative republic. As Abraham Lincoln stated almost 100 years later, they bestowed upon us “a government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Since that fateful day in July of 1776, the Declaration of Independence has stood as a paragon of a representative government and as an example of individuals demanding freedom from tyranny to establish their basic rights. It served as the basis for the United States and offered a model to other nations. The Declaration marked the first occurrence of a formal announcement of the right of individuals to choose their own government and influenced societies worldwide to seek the rights granted under this document.

During the American Revolution, many of the colonists took up arms to fight for their families, their rights and their beliefs. Despite their inferior size and the relative youth of their nation, the colonists prevailed in this struggle. To this day, many American men and women have fought and died for the rights this document recognized. We should honor their sacrifice. Because of these brave veterans, Americans have the power to choose their own leaders and the freedom to control the fate of their own nation. It is a right and civic duty that I encourage all Iowans to utilize.

Americans recognized the importance of the Fourth of July following 1776, but only in 1870 did the U.S. Congress make the Fourth of July a federal holiday. Since then, it has become a day that celebrates the freedoms that we enjoy, honors the sacrifices of our soldiers and unites citizens in celebration of the history of this country.

Every Fourth of July, the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia is tapped thirteen times for the thirteen original colonies, signaling bells across the country to start ringing. The celebrations many of us will partake in this weekend are part of what embodies the American Spirit. However, as parades fill the streets, hot dogs sizzle on the grill and fireworks burst, remember the sacrifices that many have made for the continuation of this nation. If you happen to hear a bell on the Fourth, think of the one that sits in Philadelphia that stands for the principles that Americans fight for to this day.

Let freedom ring.

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