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Happy Independence Day! As we celebrate this holiday with fireworks, patriotic songs and picnics, we should take a moment to reflect not only on our current freedoms but also our continuing obligation to continue our journey to create a more perfect union for all Americans.
Today, among all the festivities, is a good day to take time to read—or re-read—The Declaration of Independence. Written primarily by Thomas Jefferson in consultation with the Committee of Five, it outlined the colonies’ intention to be absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown. It’s only a ten-minute read, even less if you skip over the body of the document devoted to outlining the specific grievances against the King.
Most Americans are familiar with the part of the preamble which outlines our individual rights.
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.
The remainder of the preamble emphasizes that the new government would derive “their just power from the consent of the governed” and that it is the responsibility of the “People” to institute, alter and, if necessary, abolish a government to achieve these rights.
Four score and seven years later, President Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address recounted this point when he referred to a “government of the people, by the people, for the people…”.
These are the freedoms that are celebrated today—the freedom to govern ourselves to ensure that our rights cannot be taken away or infringed upon by a possessor.
However, we must also reflect on my second point—our obligation to sustain and improve upon a form of governance that protects and, as appropriate, expands to all our citizens the freedoms our Forefathers worked so hard to secure.
We must recognize that fundamental to sustaining and refining such a form of government is a strong educational system which provides everyone the opportunity to learn our true history—both the positive and negative—and to learn how to engage civilly in the discourse necessary to effectively govern ourselves. That is our obligation. It is an ongoing effort that must be persistently addressed in our federal, state and local governments as well as in every school district, school, classroom and home.
Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to William Jarvis in 1820:
“I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”
So today I celebrate the courage of our Founding Fathers to declare their independence and their wisdom in recognizing that education must be a centerpiece of sustainability and progress. Additionally, I applaud all those who continue to educate, support and invest in our schools as we persist in our efforts to create a more perfect union for ALL Americans. For without them, we wouldn’t be celebrating with fireworks, patriotic songs and picnics.
Happy Independence Day!
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Mark Rolewski has assisted schools and school districts in designing and implementing successful turnaround initiatives for over 20 years. Mark has assisted with school turnaround in many districts and schools including those in Florida, New York City, Hartford, New Orleans, Memphis, Kansas City and Los Angeles. He is widely sought after by schools and school districts to speak about and assist with turnaround initiatives.