On this Fourth of July, America celebrates 243 years of independence. We are just seven years away from the 250thanniversary – or the sestercentennial – of when 56 delegates in 1776 signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. This founding charter declared freedom from tyranny, announcing the birth of a sovereign nation and heralded to the world that Americans are a free people aligned to the bedrock principles of self-government.

As an elected representative for Iowans, I work each day to defend our freedoms and make the government of the people, by the people and for the people. Whether I’m voting to strengthen our nation’s defense or provide resources for veterans, building consensus on legislative reforms to help lower drug prices, championing free and fair trade agreements for U.S. farmers, manufacturers, workers and consumers or protecting hard-earned taxpayer dollars, it’s important to remember why the American colonists risked their lives and their livelihoods to win independence from the British crown. People yearn to live free and be free to pursue happiness.

The Declaration of Independence spelled out the grievances of an unjust government and proclaimed America will be ruled with the consent of the people. And so the American experiment was born on July 4, 1776. The land of freedom, liberty and justice for all continues to have growing pains 243 years later. And yet the crown jewels of our republic – equal rights, opportunity and the freedom to earn one’s own success in life – unite Americans from all walks of life to create a more perfect union. The pearl of wisdom attributed to Benjamin Franklin at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 resonates to this day in 2019, in a society divided by heated political rhetoric and incivility. When asked what sort of government was created by the delegates, Benjamin Franklin replied: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

How to keep our republic.

Self-government requires civic engagement and an informed citizenry. That’s why I have made it a priority since Iowans first elected me to the U.S. Senate to keep in touch and meet face to face with my constituents. For 39 years, I have held at least one meeting in each of Iowa’s 99 counties every year.

Representative government is a two-way street. Whether I’m meeting with students, retirees, business people or workers on the factory floor, it’s my responsibility to update Iowans what their government is up to and to listen and bring their ideas and concerns the policymaking tables in the nation’s capital. In the month leading up to Independence Day 2019, three defining moments in history help profile the pillars of freedom for which our nation and the American people represent.

First, the 30th anniversary of the student-led movement for democracy in Communist China gave Americans a stark reminder about the blessings of freedom we cannot afford to take for granted. The tanks on Tiananmen Square in Beijing and massacre of innocent people in 1989 illustrate the brutality of authoritarianism. Quashing the pro-democracy movement telegraphed the trajectory of the Chinese regime for the next 30 years and counting, including censorship and a repressive denial of political, religious and economic freedoms.

Second, that same week this June, Congress observed the 100th anniversary of Senate passage of the 19thamendment. The women’s suffrage movement exemplifies the power of civic engagement. For decades, supporters of women’s voting rights led a crusade to win equal access to the ballot box in America. Thanks to civic activism, America’s system of self-government is held to account by all Americans, men and women, at the ballot box.

The third milestone in history underscores the uncommon courage and sacrifice of the Greatest Generation. On June 6, the free world celebrated the 75th anniversary of D-Day, paying tribute to the incredible heroes who helped free a continent and end Nazi tyranny.

These milestones teach invaluable lessons and show how history shapes the course of human events. It’s one of the reasons I care so much about history. So that future generations will learn from it to help preserve our freedoms, liberties, and way of life.

On this Independence Day, I encourage all Iowans to celebrate with family, friends and neighbors. Whether enjoying a parade, backyard barbeque, ball game or fireworks display, let’s also reflect on the hometown heroes who have served and serve our nation in uniform. From the U.S. Armed Forces to community first responders, we owe a debt of gratitude to those who answer the call to keep us safe and so that we may live free. Happy Independence Day.

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