In June 1776, American statesman Richard Henry Lee, called for the Second Continental Congress to declare the 13 colonies independence from Great Britain. The Committee of Five (Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Sherman and Livingston) drafted and presented a resolution of independence, which was eventually approved July 2 and adopted July 4.

What led to this historic event was a 13-year period of hostilities brought about by unfair taxation without proper representation — a complaint still heard today.

To avoid the pitfalls of the past, one must know what they were. I encourage you to consider a summer reading program of American history. Pick up a book from the library or download electronic versions. Start July 4.

I began reading letters of the Founding Fathers and their families and with each word my patriotism and respect grew. They risked their lives and fortunes for America’s independence.

Great reads of liberty and freedom can be found many places. I have long found the speeches and writings of President Ronald Reagan to be inspirational. Several times he stated, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

He wisely stated in 1976, “I’m convinced that today the majority of Americans want what those first Americans wanted: A better life for themselves and their children; a minimum of government authority. Very simply, they want to be left alone in peace and safety to take care of the family by earning an honest dollar and putting away some savings.”

Although off by two days, America’s second president, John Adams, wrote to his wife that the second of July, “…will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.

“It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

Surely the Fourth of July we shall celebrate in the ways suggested by President Adams, but let us also celebrate one another, for I, like others, believe that America isn’t just a place — it is a people. Celebrate with respect for our differences, civility in our discourse and joy in our hearts.

“The dreams of people may differ, but everybody wants their dreams to come true. And America, above all places, gives us the freedom to do that,” (Ronald Reagan).

And for that, we should also be grateful.

Cheryl E. Johnson is the Galveston County Tax Assessor/Collector.

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