Celebrate independence, rights Americans earned

  • Published
  • By Col. JL Briggs
  • 65th Air Base Wing commander
Happy Independence Day Lajes! Our nation will celebrate its 232nd Birthday Friday. I recently finished reading a biography of Benjamin Franklin from our awesome library. If you haven't been in there yet this summer, you are the worse for it. The staff are pro's and the opportunities are unlimited when you unlock the power of information there. Take me up on it and I know you won't be disappointed. Anyway back to my article on Independence. 

When I read Benjamin Franklin's autobiography, I was reminded just how audacious, brilliant and committed our Founding Fathers were to the idea that every individual has worth and should be represented when the government makes decisions about their lives. Individual freedom and responsibility were the hallmarks of the decision for Independence. 

That same idea is alive and well here in the 65th Air Base Wing. Everyone has worth. Regardless of your race; creed, nationality, religious affiliation, height, sex or whatever else makes you the individual you are today -- you have individual worth. We value you for what you bring to the table in terms of integrity, commitment to others, devotion to your passions and mission accomplishment. Folks who make a difference, like our Founding Fathers, are those who see what needs to be done and simply do it. One of my favorite Benjamin Franklin quotes relates to the attitude you bring to any situation.
"Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do." 

Franklin was calling out his own friends and colleagues in colonial leadership for just sitting and complaining about circumstances instead of taking action. At Lajes, we have a wonderful community with heroes that step up every day and fill the needs of those around them. Be a part of the solution to issues with the talents you bring to the table instead of just a reporter of events around you. Now, let's get back to Independence. 

When victory came at Yorktown in 1781, the burden of developing a workable constitution took another six full years. Democracy has always been hard work. History has shown no better system for unleashing human potential and probably no messier way to do it. Our nation is in the middle of an exciting Presidential campaign where barriers are being broken and new leaders emerging. The world is watching who we select as our next leader because that person will eventually have an effect on them. Your responsibility is to make the effort to get informed and make a choice. You need to vote. Contact your unit voting assistance officer, get registered, and get an absentee ballot. Benjamin Franklin would agree. 

"A nation of well informed men who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved. It is in the region of ignorance that tyranny begins." 

Informed voters are a powerful force. Become one. 

Finally, when the Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776, the famous line: "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" became a rallying cry for the hard years of war ahead of the new nation. There was no guarantee of success when we took those first incredible steps on our own. We became responsible for our own actions as a people. We would succeed or fail based on the choices we made, the attitude we had, and the risks we were willing to take to live a better life. Our indomitable American spirit is the same today. We look challenges in the eye and move forward. We choose to work for the greater good and sacrifice our own desires to bring peace and prosperity to those around us. It is a choice. Benjamin Franklin was wise enough to remind our new nation about how important personal choices are when he said:
"The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself." 

You see, most of success (and happiness) in life is a choice. We choose to worry and complain about things or we choose to do the things we can about them. We choose to be responsible or we choose to blame others. We choose anger or we choose forgiveness. The Founding Fathers set our nation on a course of greatness over two hundred years ago based on the simple notion the people have worth. People can define their own future by being knowledgeable of the world around them. People can choose their happiness by being involved in solutions and working to define the common good. 

On this Independence Day, I choose to be a proud American who will continue to work for the idea that you matter. Join me.