In a few days, we’ll join people across the country to celebrate that momentous day, when a group of leaders gathered to sign a document that would change the course of history, in our land and around the world. The Continental Congress in Philadelphia adopted the Declaration of Independence, unanimously declared by the 13 United States of America, on July 4, 1776. The first celebrations began shortly after the signing in colonies along the Eastern Seaboard, with parades, fireworks, the firing of cannons, military reviews and festive meals shared by families and friends. As signed copies of the document reached various towns throughout the colonies, eager citizens gathered on the courthouse steps and town squares to hear it read aloud. This public announcement of the birth of a nation began with a statement of observation: “When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. 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 ...” It continued with a list of the colonies’ concerns and the failed attempts to resolve them with the British monarchy; and it closed with this declaration: “We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” Citizens have gathered each July Fourth since then to commemorate the steps to freedom, and in just a few days we’ll have opportunity to do just that. We’ll begin with parades, proclamations, pledges, and picnics with family and friends. Then we’ll close the festivities with vibrant fireworks displays and jubilant sounds of freedom. As we enjoy a time of celebration, let’s also pause to reflect on the principles our country’s founders set in place for us. Principles that can be a guiding force for our nation and our personal lives as we face the challenges and opportunities before us. -We must know what beliefs we hold dear—the principles we want to base our life upon—and why they are of value to us. -It’s important to stand strong for those beliefs and to speak out when appropriate, not just about what we’re against, but also for what we favor. -We need a solid foundation to uphold us when the challenging winds of adversity blow—a source of strength and stability to guide and sustain us. -It is important for us to cherish our freedoms and not take them for granted. -We can learn to respect differences, while seeking out the common threads that can draw us together. As we celebrate this special day in the life of our country, let’s also pause to humble ourselves before God as we seek His face and ask for His guidance, protection and provision. May “that star-spangled banner yet wave” and may freedom ring, in our nation and in our hearts. And, may God bless America. Happy Fourth of July! Nancy Williams, M.Ed., LPC is a licensed professional counselor, life coach, speaker, and writer. Send comments to her at www.nancywilliams.net.