Good morning. This is the day on which Thomas Jefferson achieved immortality. In writing what in anyone else's hand would have been a routine state paper, Jefferson managed to find language that would resonate with the aspirations of humanity for the rest of time. The world pivots on July 4, 1776, because Jefferson gave us the template for a universal human dream: due process, equal protection under the law, the understanding that people are born with rights and government's main purpose is to respect those rights, a believe that we are entitled to take charge of our own destiny, and the idea that we are born to seek happiness, not endure misery or our original sinfulness. If Jefferson had done nothing else, he would be remembered for his agency in drafting the most important document in the English language. And yet he was a shy and diffident man who would rather have been in Virginia.
One day Egypt will enjoy the full fruits of the rule of law, and Syria, and Pakistan, and China, and North Korea. "Some sooner some later," said Jefferson and not without "oceans of blood." We Americans must remember the gravity of what we represent, and return to something like republican virtues and values. The world is watching us, and what they see now is a slovenly paralyzed nation that prefers stuff to liberty. It is never too late to renew our vows.
The image of the Steamship Kronprinz Wilhelm July Fourth dinner menu is from the New York Public Library Digital Collections.