The Fourth of July is undoubtedly a special time for every American. It is an opportunity to reflect on the meaning and origin of American freedom. It is a day full of picnics, parades, barbecues, and fireworks. It is a highlight of patriotism and a celebration of proud sovereignty and independence.
Over 240 years ago, July 4 wasn't marked by the festivities we experience today. July 4, 1776 was mired in a time of uncertainty, sacrifice, fear, and desperation. Yet through all this, bravery, courage, and perseverance persisted, and a nation was born.
There is no way we can put ourselves in the shoes of the American colonists, nor will there likely be a time in our lifetimes where we engage in a violent revolution for the inherent right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This is both a blessing and a curse.
Americans are a blessed people, and our birthrights are coveted by countless people around the world. Sadly, we take our blessings for granted all too often and forget the great sacrifices that have been fought on behalf of freedom. New generations of Americans are dulled by apathy and are content to surrender their country's sovereignty to the international community.
How can we fight this surrender of American greatness? On July 4, we can start by remembering the stories of the American Revolution that gave birth to a nation "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
Three such stories stand out to me. The first is Washington crossing the Delaware River for a Christmas week attack on a band of Hessians. General Washington led men who were weary and unfit to fight against the greatest army in the world at that time. He knew that this surprise attack had a high chance of failure, but he knew that success in this battle would mark a turning point in the war.
His gamble paid off. The American army scored a partial victory, boosting the spirits and resolves of war-weary colonists around the eastern seaboard of North America. Without a successful outcome in this battle, history would have likely been drastically altered. American success here, though, was a stepping stone to independence.
The second story is that of Cesar Rodney from Delaware. Rodney was a delegate to the Continental Congress. He was a marked man – both by Britain and by cancer, which had begun to ravage his body. He was not present for the initial voting for independence, yet his vote became (arguably) the most sought-after in world history when Delaware needed to break a tie to ratify the Declaration of Independence. When summoned, Rodney, very sick, traveled 80 miles, exposed to fierce elements, to break the tie. Without his vote, the results from the states would not have been unanimous, and the Declaration of Independence may have been left unsigned.
The third and final story is that of Robert Morris. Morris is one of the most forgotten men of the Revolution, yet he was one of the most influential. Initially, Morris was opposed to the war; however, when the fight for independence became the objective, Morris' abilities to finance the efforts became invaluable to the colonists.
These stories – and many more – demonstrate how close America was to losing the war and remaining under a tyrannical British rule. They are linked together by a miraculous undercurrent that no one could start to explain. What if Washington had decided not to cross the Delaware? What if Cesar Rodney had not made his ride? What if Robert Morris had not come around to support a long-shot effort for independence?
Thankfully, those "what-if's" became reality. Because of heroism and commitment to independence, our children can walk in freedom.
With this freedom, though, comes great responsibility. Former President Ronald Reagan once said that "freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction." He was right then – and even more so today.
So on this Independence Day, let us resolve to remember the patriotism of our American forefathers and do our own unique parts to keep the flame of liberty burning brightly for all the world to see. We should do no less for the country that gives us the opportunities and license to live the American dream.
Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!
Andy Biggs, a Republican, represents Arizona's 5th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions.