Letter: Founding fathers made big leap
Published 8:25 am Saturday, January 28, 2017
On July 2, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was unanimously approved by Congress in Philadelphia. Each year on July 4th we celebrate Independence Day which is the date of its formal adoption. And, rightly so! The Declaration of Independence is our preeminent founding document. It breathes the breath of freedom into the very heart of America. Another date, hardly known or recognized by most Americans, is September 17th, 1787. This is the date that our United States Constitution was adopted.
On March 4, 1789, George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States. Since then the wisdom of our founding fathers has been underscored by the orderly inauguration of a succession of 45 presidents. For 228 years our Constitution has served us well as the fundamental law of the land. The founders were even insightful enough to recognize that a procedure was needed to amend the Constitution. It has been amended 27 times. This includes the first ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights. A group of wise men recognized the need to clearly outline those rights which should not and would not be limited by government. These include freedom of religion, speech, press and peaceable assembly, as well as the right to bear arms among other rights. The rights of the people were spelled out in some detail. This was done to limit government and to reduce the chance of a government gone wild to the detriment of the people.
In his book, The Five Thousand Year Leap, Dr. W. Cleon Skousen declares that the United States of America established a new and improved relationship between a people and a government. For the previous 5,000 years, government had been a function of a monarchy or a few in power doling out rights to the masses. A new and unique American creation presented a form of government which “approaches nearer to perfection than any government hitherto instituted among men.” Its genius is imbedded in its recognition that our divine creator endowed mankind with rights and that those rights are not granted by government. On the contrary, the people of the nation have declared those individual rights and responsibilities upon which the government may not infringe.
The entire concept of a government of, by and for the people was indeed revolutionary. We Americans truly believe this ingenious form of government is both effective and fair in that it places responsibility for individuals and for government in proper perspective. At the heart of being an American is the acceptance of personal responsibility that keeps government in its proper place as an agent of the people but not as a replacement for individual effort, initiative and responsibility.
As we begin a new Presidential administration, we should review and reassess our expectations of government. We need to evaluate the nature and motives of the people we elect to government at all levels. Are they in keeping with the values, goals and ideals of those who designed a nation of free people who eagerly accept personal responsibility for themselves and their families? For example, it has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. This minimizes the personal responsibility of parents. It takes a loving and committed mother and father who are eager for their children to mature into responsible citizens who will contribute to the growth and development of this great nation. Certainly, this is not to minimize or deny the role of church and community in the development of our young people.
Over 200 years ago, our founding fathers took a “5,000 years leap.” It is our job to recognize the wisdom of their endeavor. Local, state and national elected officials need to commit themselves to building responsible individuals and families who accept the freedoms of America as a challenge to perfect a government that serves the people without violating their God given rights.