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Document at heart of holiday

It is a powerful and beloved document, unique in its timing and purpose, and yet, few of us pause to consider its meaning, even on the very day it should be celebrated.

Ask most Americans what they like most about the Fourth of July, and we’ll wager that some of them won’t even mention the word “independence.”

A lot of us are given time off from work today, and that will be why many folks are thankful it’s the Fourth — an opportunity to sleep late, a reprieve from the workday battle with traffic.

Other people will mention family events or community gatherings — cookouts, picnics, baseball games and perhaps a parade and a public fireworks display. Many cities, including Denton, have planned plenty of activities to help residents celebrate the Fourth.

Some Americans may associate July 4 with vacation season, and that works out well if you’re one of the lucky ones who gets a holiday today and can wrangle another day off on Friday. The long weekend would be an ideal way to start the annual family pilgrimage to the mountains, the coast or one of the nation’s popular theme parks.

We know a few folks who might even answer our question about the Fourth by talking about food. Hot dogs, apple pie, barbecue and other tasty treats usually find us forgetting about diets and health regimens so we can chow down and take a nap under the ceiling fan.

But before you start the grill and pull the ice cream freezer out of the garage, take a moment to consider our original statement about the document that should be celebrated today.

Like we said, it’s unique and powerful, and its words should occupy a place of prominence in every American home.

But most of us are content to leave its passages locked away inside a dusty history book, as if its words have lost their vibrancy and impact.

We might stop to squint at a framed copy in a museum or government building, but we’ve probably never framed a copy of our own or read it to our children.

Can you recite any of its life-changing words? Many of us can remember the opening, “When in the Course of human events. ...”

But we probably stumble soon after and trail off with a mumble.

Why not make an addition to your holiday agenda and read the Declaration of Independence? It won’t take long, and we have a feeling that you’ll start thinking about more important topics than hot dogs and potato salad.

Independence Day is a day to commemorate the Declaration of Independence and the struggles and sacrifices that led to its adoption in 1776 and our young nation’s eventual victory over tyranny. It’s a day to celebrate our freedom.

It is a day to remember “self-evident” truths, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It is a day to celebrate our system of government, a design that gives each of us a voice, the right to free speech and thought. “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. ...”

What a glorious nation this is, and yet, few of us appreciate how lucky we are.

Today, we ask you to pause and remember the sacrifices that have been made to secure and protect your freedom.

We may not be able to imagine what it was like for our Founding Fathers — they faced extreme danger by even signing the Declaration of Independence — but we can understand what others have done in our behalf.

Remember our heroes today, and be thankful. Give thanks for your freedom and for those who have fought and died to keep this nation free.

And be sure and remember to thank our police and firefighters who remain on duty today. They, too, are heroes.

Happy Independence Day, and keep that copy of the Declaration of Independence handy.