Are you proud to be an American? Why? Do you believe that the United States of America is truly unique? Why? When I have the opportunity to speak with youth across Georgia, these are a few of my questions. Without exception, they are always proud to call themselves Americans. Much more seldom are they able to articulate the “why”. Understanding what makes this nation unique from every other country on the face of the Earth is fundamental to teaching the next generation why they should be proud of their national heritage.
In my experience, the best place to start when exploring what makes America different is with the document that started it all: the Declaration of Independence.
On July 4, 1776 our nation’s Founders signed the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. The purpose of this document was not solely to declare our independence, but to explain it. The authors explain in the first few lines that dissolution of political bonds as strong as those between Britain and her colonies should not be taken lightly, and they devote a majority of this open letter to the world to explaining their reasons for separation.
Before they explain themselves though, they take a slightly different approach. They set forth a paragraph of core principles upon which they will be founding their new nation.
“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.”
For generations, Americans and others around the world have analyzed these simple words. We have diced and chopped and striven to understand exactly what the founders intended with each of the “self-evident” rights with which they assert mankind is endowed. In my opinion, the most important provision included in this paragraph is not buried in the rights themselves, though. It has to do with their origin.
My father was born in the United Kingdom. He was born to an American father and an English mother. Through my grandmother, I am a dual citizen between the United States and the United Kingdom. When speaking on this topic, I always enjoy holding up my two passports for the crowd. I hold my red British passport a little higher and ask, “When I travel under this passport, do I have rights?” The answer is of course “Yes”, but the origin of those rights is Britain’s Sovereign, the Queen. She has granted me rights as a British subject, and that is the only reason for their existence.
My rights as an American are different. They have always been different for Americans. From the very beginning it was asserted that we are “endowed by (our) Creator with certain unalienable rights…” Whatever your beliefs regarding divinity, understand the core importance here: Your rights are not given to you by government. You have rights because you are a human being. You have rights because you are an American. The American government did not gift them to you. In fact, the government exists for the purpose of protecting these rights that you already possessed.
What makes our nation truly different? In the history of the world, the United States of America is the only nation on the face of the Earth that recognizes that our rights come from God and not government. That your rights begin and end apart from the government. If government didn’t give you your rights, they cannot take them away.
This is a truly unique aspect of the American form of government. Each of us who have been blessed to call the Great American Experiment our home should take pride in this recognition.
Please feel free to reach out to me on my cell phone at (678)523-8570 or email me atMichael@caldwellforhouse.com. If you have any other questions or concerns, contact me or come meet me at one of my Weekly Coffees with District 20 nearly every Saturday at Copper Coin Coffee in downtown Woodstock.
Thank you again for allowing me the honor of representing your family in Georgia’s General Assembly!