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Tuesday, Sep 02, 2014
Joe Henderson Columns

Henderson: Despite differences, America is still united

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Independence Hall in Philadelphia is one of my favorite places to visit.

Visitors can't help but imagine what the debate must have been like when the Continental Congress gathered 237 years ago to argue the pros and cons of independence from British rule.

It was among the most important gatherings in human history. If you listen close, you can almost hear the echoes today.

Fifty-six men walked into the Hall with different ideas on what to do. They walked out in unanimous agreement that we would be one nation with self-evident truths of human equality.

Thomas Jefferson took careful notes of the process, some of which were included in his autobiography. The delegation from Virginia, including George Washington, was the first to formally offer the resolution of separation from Great Britain. It took about a month before unanimous agreement was reached that led to the Declaration of Independence we celebrate today.

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It was a moment in time that changed the world. The resolution for independence was approved on July 2 and revised on July 4. It was read publicly on July 8, along with the ringing of the Liberty Bell.

Nothing has been the same since then.

Key among the many things the founding fathers embraced was the notion that all people were equal and should have a voice.

Getting there was messy, though. For instance, Jefferson and John Adams didn't like each other a bit, but both still signed a document that could have gotten them hanged.

I think the founders would have liked a lot of what they see today, even as contentious as it often is. They would have liked the tea party, I think. They would have liked that one party controls the U.S. House of Representatives while a different one controls the U.S. Senate.

They would have liked that the Supreme Court was making decisions on important issues based on the justices' interpretation of the law. They would have liked the differences of the South and North. They would have loved the debates on guns and schools.

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They wouldn't have expected us always to agree, which is why we have freedom of speech. I believe they envisioned an America where citizens would argue positions with unrestrained passion, and then gather together around a common flag to celebrate our unity.

They wouldn't have liked how our leaders spend so much time spying on and battling with other countries. They really wouldn't have liked how much the central government knows about the private lives of its citizens. As a nation, though, we are still relatively young. We will figure it out.

So grill your hot dogs today and play "The Stars and Stripes Forever" real loud. Watch the ballgames and fireworks shows, and celebrate the greatest land ever created.

And remember a time when determined men came together in Philadelphia to create the United States of America.

They got it right.

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