The Declaration of Independence was adopted 246 years ago and since that time, the United States has changed remarkably. The country would be largely unrecognizable to the Founding Fathers, but the values and principles that inspired the American Revolution, though taken for granted by many today, are still there.
The famous sentence from the Declaration of Independence sums up those values: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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 should also be noted that many nations around the world have based their declarations of independence on the U.S. version so that the ideals of democracy, liberty, equality, spread to countries in Central and South America, Europe, and as far as New Zealand and its 1835 Declaration of Independence.
The Greek Revolution, too, was inspired by the American Revolution, as many community events related to the bicentennial of 1821 pointed out over the course of the celebrations last year and into this year.
The freedoms inspired by ancient Greek ideals were hard won and for some the struggle continues.
In the grand scheme of history, 246 years is not such a long time, and especially when compared to Greece with its history stretching back thousands of years, the United States is still a relatively young nation, and it still attracts all those from around the world pursuing the American Dream.
The United States was built by all those immigrants who came to the United States in search of a better life. The contributions immigrants have made to the nation should never be underestimated or undervalued and we should always remember those who paved the way for the success of the Hellenic community through their sacrifice and hard work.
So while we celebrate with backyard barbecues and fireworks, we should also think about the great cost of freedom and how there are still so many around the globe who are “yearning to breathe free,” as Emma Lazarus wrote in her poem The New Colossus. Written in 1883 to raise money for the construction of the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal, the poem mentions the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, as “the brazen giant of Greek fame,” but Lady Liberty in this poem is the “Mother of Exiles.”
The New Colossus
By Emma Lazarus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”