The Fabric of Our Nation

SAF/PA 2009 Air Force Public Affairs

Independence Day, 2010

(Editor's note: This speech as provided is approximately 7-8 minutes in duration. Attached at the end of this speech is a companion copy of the Declaration of Independence for the orator's use.)

[Insert welcome to guests]

Today is a day that deserves celebrating. And sure enough, as Americans, we know just how to do that; whether with parades, fireworks, even hot dogs or apple pie.

Today we celebrate our nation's birthday, our Independence Day.

We are a nation of enthusiasts - people with passion, opinions, dreams and hopes. In another country this could present a challenge, but here our strength is in our diversity, united under one belief that people should be free to speak their mind, to demonstrate, to live and explore opportunities. 

The Declaration of Independence, one of our nation's foundational documents, states in simple eloquence what our forefathers deemed our rights - our unalienable rights - that cannot be given or taken away "... among these (rights) are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." These rights are the cornerstone of our existence, and these words represent some of the most important aspects of the Declaration of Independence signed on July 4, 1776.

This unanimous declaration of the thirteen original states set forth the causes which impelled them to cast off a foreign government and declare a new nation. The delegates who approved the Declaration mutually pledged their "lives, fortunes, and sacred honor" to be free from British rule. It took more than seven years until the United States and Great Britain signed the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783, ending the War of the American Revolution.

Independence Day is a time for celebration and reflection. On this day we should both: celebrate the vast freedoms we enjoy and the unmatched opportunities awaiting every American; and at the same time remember the reasons we are a free nation -- a nation that encourages free thought and allows each and every American the liberty of choice. In celebrating this gift we must pay tribute to those who came before.

Freedom is fragile and its champions must be strong. Americans have nurtured their freedom for 233 years, allowing it to grow and flourish, tearing down the final barriers to universal suffrage (Note: right to vote) and civil rights. Nurturing our democracy and maintaining our independence takes courage.

Our American forefathers realized that there was a stark difference between calling themselves free and actually being free. Unless they took a stand in support of freedom, their aspirations for independence would have remained only an unrealized dream. 

Their actions were in every sense of the word, "revolutionary." Their results are the basis for our patriotic themes we carry forth to this day.

In his inaugural address President Obama stated, "Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations."

In tribute to our founders' success we gather again, year after year, to celebrate our national birthright. The 56 courageous men who signed the Declaration of independence changed not only the course of a fledgling country's destiny, but the destiny of the world. It is inconceivable to imagine a world without the United States of America. Had our forefathers failed, would men and women in our country and in others risk everything to be free? The decision to fight for liberty does not come without a price.

Throughout the years, Americans have paid that price. From our earliest militias hearing the call of duty, to battlefields of our Civil War, and onward through two World Wars, Americans have shed blood for the ideals that our founders set in motion. From the battles of the Korean peninsula and the jungles of Vietnam, to the massive air campaigns fought in Operations Desert Storm, Allied Force, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, much has changed, but our commitment to the cause has remained the same. 

In the early years of our nation men and women armed themselves with muskets and canister shot to win a society free from tyranny. Today we use smart weapons, stealth aircraft, Unmanned Aircraft Systems, broadband satellite communications and many other tools to accomplish this same goal. This important mission, ever carried, by the men and women of our military, who daily exhibit the same drive, patriotism and sacrifice as their forefathers, sustain our ability to fight for and protect our great nation.

In the Air Force, it is our people who make us strong. Without dedicated men and women -- many of them from this community -- we would not be the best trained, most efficient, and effective Air Force we are today. 

Our seventh Vice President John C. Calhoun once said, "It is harder to preserve than obtain liberty." To that end, the U.S. Air Force tirelessly trains, prepares, and executes its mission anywhere and anytime.

As America's sword and shield, Airmen, along with Sailors, Soldiers, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen, stand ready at all times to defend our nation. From those serving in active duty; to our citizen airmen within the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve; to our civil service employees and contractors; our total force airmen are truly one team, dedicated to accomplishing their mission.

Over time, our enemies have changed and the battlefield has become more complex. 

Every day brings a new challenge to the 27,000 airmen deployed around the world constantly in harm's way. As a willing voluntary force, airmen have made the decision to serve our nation in the protection of our liberty. 

It is the love of this nation and its principles that inspires them to spend a year or more away from their families in forward-deployed locations, working 12-hour shifts. Missing birthdays, holidays, anniversaries and even the births of their children, they are there in the name of freedom.

That first presence of the American military spirit, represented by a rag-tag bunch of patriots standing against overwhelming odds to defend (or protect) their freedoms and principles, set the precedent for our Airmen today to defend our freedom, liberty and the American dream. 

America's Air Force is "all in" supporting the global fight. We have young Airmen working alongside our sister services in Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations worldwide. 

From Iraq to Afghanistan, the Korean Peninsula to the Horn of Africa,,Airmen are fighting to eliminate threats and help fledgling democracies rise from the ashes; in air, space, and cyberspace. 

Worldwide, Air Mobility Command launches an aircraft approximately once every 90 seconds, transporting more than 2,000 tons of cargo and more than 6,000 passengers every day. Many of these missions include delivering vital food, water and medicine -- helping thousands of people in need.

We are supporting the "enduring struggle against terrorism and extremism" and supporting other nations' needs by resupplying and moving troops to the battlefields, and moving cargo and humanitarian supplies to hurricane, flood, and earthquake victims worldwide. Our critical air mobility missions of air refueling, aeromedical evacuation and airlift have continued at a fast tempo, without interruption, since the first Gulf War. 

We are flying combat missions and providing close air support for our joint and coalition partners; we are flying air patrols over our nation's capitol; and we are providing silent but vigilant support through our space and cyberspace technologies.

Our Airmen are on guard 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year to protect America's rights, liberty and way of life. Our Airmen are as much a fabric of our independence today as were the great generations who preceded them. 

Because of your support our Airmen are able to keep up the fight, to protect our way of life and keep our country safe. We can hoist the "stars and stripes" over the Capitol building, the White House, or [name of the nearest Air Force base] - flying our flag over the symbols of our great nation, and the world's best Air Force, on this day and every day.

So as you enjoy today's festivities remember those Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who would love to enjoy it with you. Think of them today because they are surely thinking of you.

Thank you.

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776. 
THE UNANIMOUS 
DECLARATION 
OF THE 
THIRTEEN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

WHEN, in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's GOD entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the Causes which impel them to the Separation.
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.--That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate, that Governments long established, should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security. Such has been the patient Sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the Necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The History of the present King of Great-Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World.

HE has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good.
HE has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing Importance, unless suspended in their Operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
HE has refused to pass other Laws for the Accommodation of large Districts of People, unless those People would relinquish the Right of Representation in the Legislature, a Right inestimable to them, and formidable to Tyranny only.
HE has called together Legislative Bodies at Places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the Depository of their public Records, for the sole Purpose of fatiguing them into Compliance with his Measures.
HE has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly Firmness his Invasions on the Rights of the People.
HE has refused for a long Time, after such Dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining, in the mean Time, exposed to all the Dangers of Invasion from without, and Convulsions within.
HE has endeavoured to prevent the Population of these States; for that Purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Migrations hither, and raising the Conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
HE has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
HE has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the Tenure of their Offices, and the Amount and Payment of their Salaries.
HE has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harrass our People, and eat out their Substance.
HE has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies, without the Consent of our Legislatures.
HE has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
HE has combined with others to subject us to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our Laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
FOR quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us:
FOR protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
FOR cutting off our Trade with all Parts of the World:
FOR imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
FOR depriving us, in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury:
FOR transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended Offences:
FOR abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an arbitrary Government, and enlarging its Boundaries, so as to render it at once an Example and fit Instrument for introducing the same absolute Rule into these Colonies:
FOR taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
FOR suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all Cases whatsoever.
HE has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection, and waging War against us.
HE has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.
HE is, at this Time, transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the Works of Death, Desolation, and Tyranny, already begun with Circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized Nation.
HE has constrained our Fellow-Citizens, taken Captive on the high Seas, to bear Arms against their Country, to become the Executioners of their Friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
HE has excited domestic Insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes, and Conditions.
IN every Stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble Terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated Injury. A Prince, whose Character is thus marked by every Act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the Ruler of a free People.
NOR have we been wanting in Attentions to our British Brethren. We have warned them, from Time to Time, of Attempts by their Legislature to extend an unwarrantable Jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the Circumstances of our Emigration and Settlement here. We have appealed to their native Justice and Magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the Ties of our common Kindred to disavow these Usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our Connexions and Correspondence. They too have been deaf to the Voice of Justice and of Consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the Necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the Rest of Mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
WE, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in GENERAL CONGRESS Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connexion between them and the State of Great-Britain, is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that as FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which INDEPENDENT STATES may of Right do. And for the Support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of DIVINE PROVIDENCE, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honour.

John Hancock. 

GEORGIA, Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, Geo. Walton. 
NORTH-CAROLINA, Wm. Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn. 
SOUTH-CAROLINA, Edward Rutledge, Thos Heyward, junr. Thomas Lynch, junr. Arthur Middleton. 
MARYLAND, Samuel Chase, Wm. Paca, Thos. Stone, Charles Carroll, of Carrollton. 
VIRGINIA, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Ths. Jefferson, Benja. Harrison, Thos. Nelson, jr. Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton. 
PENNSYLVANIA, Robt. Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benja. Franklin, John Morton, Geo. Clymer, Jas. Smith, Geo. Taylor, James Wilson, Geo. Ross. 
DELAWARE, Caesar Rodney, Geo. Read. 
NEW-YORK, Wm. Floyd, Phil. Livingston, Frank Lewis, Lewis Morris. 
NEW-JERSEY, Richd. Stockton, Jno. Witherspoon, Fras. Hopkinson, John Hart, Abra. Clark. 
NEW-HAMPSHIRE, Josiah Bartlett, Wm. Whipple, Matthew Thornton. 
MASSACHUSETTS-BAY, Saml. Adams, John Adams, Robt. Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry. 
RHODE-ISLAND AND PROVIDENCE, &c. Step. Hopkins, William Ellery. 
CONNECTICUT, Roger Sherman, Saml. Huntington, Wm. Williams, Oliver Wolcott.
IN CONGRESS, JANUARY 18, 1777.
ORDERED, 
THAT an authenticated Copy of the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCY, with the Names of the MEMBERS of CONGRESS, subscribing the same, be sent to each of the UNITED STATES, and that they be desired to have the same put on RECORD. 
By Order of CONGRESS, 
JOHN HANCOCK, President.
BALTIMORE, in MARYLAND: Printed by MARY KATHARINE GODDARD.