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The 4th of July

“The great revolution in the history of man, past, present and future, is the revolution of those determined to be free.”
– John F. Kennedy (35th President of the United States)

Interesting words by one of the most recognized leaders of the free world.

With the 4th of July falling this year on a Saturday, there is a big possibility of large conglomerations going to parks, beaches or simply backyards to commemorate this day. But I ask this question, how many people know what this day marks in history? Here is a history lesson:

Liberally endowed as a whole with courage and sense of purpose, the signers consisted of a distinguished group of individuals. Although heterogeneous in background, education, experience, and accomplishments, at the time of the signing they were practically all men of means and represented an elite cross section of 18th-century American leadership. Every one of them had achieved prominence in his colony, but only a few enjoyed a national reputation.

The signers were those individuals who happened to be Delegates to Congress at the time. Such men of stature in the Nation as George Washington and Patrick Henry were not then even serving in the body. On the other hand, Jefferson, the two Adamses, Richard Henry Lee, and Benjamin Rush ranked among the outstanding people in the Colonies; and Franklin had already acquired international fame. Some of the signers had not taken a stand for or against independence in the final vote on July 2. For example, Robert Morris of Pennsylvania had purposely absented himself. Others had not yet been elected to Congress or were away on business or military matters. Some were last-minute replacements for opponents of independence. The only signer who actually voted negatively on July 2 was George Read of Delaware.

The signers possessed many basic similarities. Most were American born and of Anglo-Saxon origin. The eight foreign-born—Button Gwinnett, Francis Lewis, Robert Morris, James Smith, George Taylor, Matthew Thornton, James Wilson, and John Witherspoon—were all natives of the British Isles. Except for Charles Carroll, a Roman Catholic, and a few Deists, every one subscribed to Protestantism. For the most part basically political non-extremists, many at first had hesitated at separation let alone rebellion. A few signed only reluctantly.

The majority were well educated and prosperous. More than half the southerners belonged to the planter class and owned slaves, though Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, and others heartily opposed the institution of slavery, as did also several of the signers from the North. On the other hand, William Whipple, as a sea captain early in his career, had likely sometimes carried slaves on his ship.

Although the signers ranged in age at the time from 26 (Edward Rutledge) to 70 (Benjamin Franklin), the bulk of them were in their thirties or forties. Probably as a result of their favored economic position, an amazingly large number attained an age that far exceeded the life expectancy of their time; 38 of the 56 lived into their sixties or beyond and 14 into the eighties and nineties.

Certainly most of the signers had little or nothing to gain materially and practically all to lose when they subscribed to the Declaration of Independence. By doing so, they earned a niche of honor in the annals of the United States. Whatever other heights they reached or whatever else they contributed to history, the act of signing insured them immortality.

As you can see I underlined parts about slavery.  Putting into consideration the social movement of “Black Lives Matter” (that began in 2013) which is bringing to light the suffering of people of color (ethnicity), I personally do not consider prudent to celebrate a day in which “slavery” and “discrimination” still form part of that country. I lived through much discrimination for being Latino, it was thought that one who spoke Spanish was an illegal alien and thus Mexican (at least in states near the U.S./Mexico border). The constant struggle to demonstrate that a “Latino” could be their equal or better was what I lived through each and every day. Yet, I still thank that country for having opened its doors to my family and I back in 1964, and I thank that country for all the opportunities it gave us.

Dr. Iván Cabrera Molina
Coordinador Programa Diploma del BI

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