Powerful words set the stage in U.S.

Published 12:15 am Sunday, July 4, 2010

Staring down at the fading words, an overwhelming sense of emotion welled up.

A lump developed in my throat and a simple thought popped into my head.

“This is it,” I thought. “This is what started it all.”

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The first “it” was the Declaration of Independence document on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

The second “it” was our country and all of its 234 years of “official” history.

Beneath what appeared to be massively thick glass, sat several of the documents that founded our country and set it on the course to be one of the most powerful, most free nations in history.

The Declaration of Independence was, of course, the one document symbolizing the start of America’s formation and the quest for independence by the first 13 colonies.

But to me, the two most impressive documents in the room were the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution.

Making out some of the words required, as I recall some six or seven years later, some concentration and even a bit of squinting.

The lights inside the display are dimmed and are special lights intended to not fade the precious writing on the works that shaped America.

It was several years ago, I found myself in the nation’s capital after attending a training program in nearby Reston, Va.

A “free day” on Friday allowed me some sightseeing time before returning home on Saturday.

Quite honestly, I hadn’t really built an itinerary, so it was sort of a fluke that I wound up at the National Archives. I noticed on a map that I was near it when rain started slowly coming down.

But there I sat staring at some of America’s most prized documents.

The display wasn’t particularly busy that day so I lingered a bit and thought a little about our country’s founding. Would today’s generation have the ambition and the guts to stand up against authority and fight for what they think is right?

I’d like to think they would, if necessary.

Fortunately, our forefathers created a system in which every citizen has a voice and a set of guaranteed rights.

Among the most important, and the one the forefathers added first, is the First Amendment.

It contains 45 words that pretty much define the basic freedoms Americans hold so dear:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The First Amendment is the single thing that separates us from many other countries in the world, but unfortunately, we can tend to take it for granted.

Today, as we celebrate our nation’s independence, let’s remember not only the powerful documents that frame our nation and the men who created them, but also let’s remember to count our blessings.

We are fortunate to live in a country in which personal freedom is so important that it’s listed first among our laws.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.