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July 4: Honoring the Founders – and Standing on Their Shoulders

The Independence Day Holiday annually invites us not only to grill out and watch fireworks, but to reflect on the truly amazing gift the Founders gave to us to continue enjoying so many years later. The stance they took for independence from a tyrannical imperial power, the danger that stance put them in, their heroic fight to achieve that independence, and the innovative, previoiusly-unheard-of government structure they invented and put into action through a series of remarkable foundational documents – all this still inspires our awe, admiration, and gratitude today.

We Americans truly stand on the shoulders of the great.

But standing on shoulders means we are reaching for something higher and greater. The "more perfect union" of which they wrote was not fully achieved in their day even through their extra-ordinary efforts.

The founding fathers never envisioned their daughters and granddaughters playing high school, college, and professional sports, or even attending high school and college.

They never imagined their parents and grandparents would be kept out of poverty by government programs of Social Security and Medicare.

The founding fathers never imagined that their wives, the founding mothers, would vote, much less hold public office.

They never thought that the enslaved people many of them owned would be free, let alone vote, let alone be president or vice president or on the original six-justice Supreme Court.

In these and many more ways we have since then moved much closer to perfection. But it still seems far off.

I don't think the Founders imagined that the entire first half of their second Amendment – the part about the "well-regulated militia" – would be completely ignored as if they had never written those words, and that it would be interpreted as tolerating the massacre of school children.

Nor did they imagine that their carefully crafted but undemocratic "electoral college," a concession to continuing slavery, would be abolished – something we have yet to do.

Nor did they imagine that their upper legislative body, the Senate, would become quite so undemocratic as a result of population growth, so that Wyoming (580,000) and California (39,000,000) each get two senators, making government-by-minority much more likely. For example, most justices on the current Supreme Court majority were appointed by presidents who did not recieve a majority of the vote. Even now, 15 states with a combined population of 38 million elect 30 Republican senators, while California with 39 million residents elects 2 Democratic senators.

And so much more.

We are grateful to the Founders for providing their broad shoulders on which we stand. Our government today is "more perfect" than they created it. But it is still far from perfect, and it's up to us to keep it moving toward that goal. Our task is not to go back but to keep moving forward. There is work to do. We need everyone interested in good government to get out and vote!


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