July 3, 2007
By Matt Wyatt a good friend of mine and Vice Chair of the Hardin County Democratic Executive Committee.
4th of July Tribute
One fall evening when I was nineteen and away from home by myself for the first time, I found myself wandering the streets of Philadelphia, a little lost and a little home-sick. I had arrived in town only a few days before, a campaign worker from Kentucky trying to help elect Harris Wofford to the U.S. Senate.
It was my first day off so I decided to take a walk in the city of brotherly love. I left the apartment that I was staying in without a map or clue as to where I was going. I took the station to Center Square where city hall towered over downtown with William Penn at its top, hands out blessing the city. Emerging from the station I walked down Market Street feeling very far from home and wondering what I was doing in this big city. Turning into a side street and walking a few more blocks, I realized that I was lost. The sidewalks were empty at night.
I stopped and looked around, glancing at the doorway of the red brick building where I had decided to halt. A plaque was mounted there and the words brought me to tears as I read them: “The Birthplace of the United States of America. “
Looking up following the lines of the familiar spire, I immediately recognized this as Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed July 4, 1776. It happened here, that diverse group of heroes gathered on this very spot before me to make that final, awesome and daring decision.
Cautiously I stepped into the Fourth of July. Suddenly the bold sentences that I have learned thundered through me with new power. “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.” These brave men not only put their names on a declaration but put their lives on the firing line. If the colonies lost there would be no place for them to hide, no Bill of Rights to call on for protection or shelter from King George’s wrath.
And yet there was surely an even stronger fear lurking: Would it work? What price independence at a time in history when it had never before been defined? Even the taste for human freedom was unclear.
They wrote the original recipe, that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men derived their power from the consent of the governed. And there I was, that dark night in Philadelphia, wondering-thanking my father, his father and all the men who sacrificed their lives for America and for freedom. The thoughts of “what am I doing here” faded. But where might I have been had they hesitated, had they divided and lacked resolve? With all the flaws and failings of the creature they created where would the world be? Would I have chosen otherwise?
Of course not. No, all these thoughts did not come to me that fall night. Over the years, I have believed, then changed my mind, have taken stands, then deserted them, have raged and prayed. But no matter what I’ve discovered about my country or myself, I’ll never forget that night more than sixteen years ago when I stepped into the Fourth of July.