July 4 is So Much More Than Simply a Date On the Calendar — Here's Why

"Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom." - John Adams

I remember celebrating July 4 when I was small, and the anticipation and excitement that led up to the day itself. Shopping for fireworks was a favorite occasion. Pulling out the swimsuits and firing up the grill always signaled the "official" kickoff of my summer. Neighbors would fill our street to watch the huge fireworks display we always put on. As a little girl, I knew July 4 was a day of independence, but it wasn't until later that I realized its true significance and the impact it would have on me.

On July 4 1776, 12 of the original 13 colonies adopted a document that would change the world. After declaring independence two days prior, 56 men knew they had no choice but to make a radical decision if their vision of a new and free country was to come to fruition. In a bold move unlike one ever seen before, the men who would become known as the Founding Fathers compiled a list of complaints against the king of England and officially declared their independence from that country's rule.

The men who created and signed this document were average citizens. They were lawyers, merchants, physicians, farmers, ministers, even scientists — ordinary working men who took extraordinary steps to secure the future of an extraordinary nation.  "Taxation without representation" resulted in a battle cry for action from the citizens of the newly-formed United States of America. The 56 signers knew they were, in essence, signing their lives away — nothing would be the same.  A huge price was paid: Nine fought in the American Revolution and died from wounds or hardships caused by it, five were captured by the British and tortured as traitors, two lost sons in the Continental Army, another two had sons captured by the British, and at least a dozen of their homes were pillaged and burned by the British.

As an eight-year-old whose main focus on July 4 was how many sparklers I could hold in one hand without burning myself, all of this information meant little to me. I loved history, but the true meaning behind this day never fully affected me until I began to develop an interest in politics. At age 12, after participating in a presidential campaign, I began to read more about our nation's founding. I saw our history in a new light and especially since becoming politically active, this day has achieved so much more resonance for me than simply a day to barbecue and set off fireworks.

My generation is growing up in a time when the words "terrorism" and "surveillance" are as common as any other, so Independence Day has a special meaning. It reminds us of the sacrifices that were made for freedom, it reminds us of the true cost it imposes, and it reminds us of the duty and privilege we have to carry the torch today. Teens today are constantly bombarded with thoughts of dependency and "comfort" in exchange for giving up just a few of their freedoms. July 4 reminds us that freedom isn't free, and that freedom is worth fighting for.  The sacrifices made by our founders go in vain if today we sit idly by and watch our freedom slip through our fingers.

This one day embodies everything I fight for on a daily basis as a 17-year-old.  Over the last two years I have spent countless hours writing, researching, and defending the values that inspired a revolution in 1776. Those beliefs in God-given rights, liberty, and opportunity are still alive and thriving amid a culture that stresses godlessness and dependency. Because the founders had the courage to stand up to the most powerful country of that time, I live in a country where I can today stand up for those same beliefs against people who seek their destruction. 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed (read the rest of the Declaration of Independence here).

I refuse to let those sacrifices go in vain. July 4 is so much more than simply a date on the calendar — it is part of the foundation upon which I base my political activities. I find inspiration in the courage portrayed by the founders. My generation has one chance to stand up and fight for our future, and failing to do so will result in the end of America as we know it and the loss of the incredible sacrifices made 237 years ago. I fight for those values 364 days a year — then July 4 comes around and renews my determination to continue.