John R. Hawkins III

Now that Independence Day, the 4th of July, has passed, what are our thoughts about it? Are they how much fun was had and how great a time we enjoyed?  Are our thoughts about what we did not do and wish we had done?  Maybe we are wishing the weather was better, not so unpredictable or that we should have made different plans.

Yes, I am feeling all of those thoughts; but, from my foxhole, I can’t help thinking about why and how the 4th of July — “Independence Day” — all came about and why so many (given not all) Americans look forward to the day with anxious anticipation given our nation’s history and current state.

July 4th as a day of celebration has its origin in the Congressional approval of the United States of America’s Declaration of Independence after much debate and revision on July 4, 1776, although the legal separation of the original American 13 colonies from Great Britain occurred on July 2, 1776. As usual in American history, the date of July 4th is in dispute by some historians claiming August 2, 1776 as the true date; even though writings by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams all attest to the signing taking place on July 4, 1776. All of that is “…well and good;” however, what does the 4th of July — “Independence Day” — really mean, today?

It is fair to realize that this is an American patriotic day of recognition; however, different from Veterans’ Day, when we recognize those who served their country and Memorial Day when we remember the ultimate selfless-sacrifice of those who gave their lives so that we may enjoy this day called “Independence Day.” Celebrating our national independence and our form of self-governance is a good thing. Even though the U.S. government is full of fallacies, inequities and some injustices, having travelled over most of this planet, it is the best country and government in which to live (if you don’t think so, just ask some of the millions from every country on the planet who want to call the USA home).

Technically, the word “Independence” is defined by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as: “…Freedom from outside control or support; the state of being independent” (so much for the rule, never describing a word by using its root word). It sites an alternate definition as: “…the time when a country or region gains political freedom from outside control.” It seems the operative inertia behind each definition is the idea of “…free will;” something virtually all walks of life and even religions say we have. Now the question becomes: what are you going to do with it?

Well, from my foxhole, I say let’s start by enhancing our individual and collective independence by voting for those who we wish to guide the policies and resulting actions that will continue to guarantee the “independence” we enjoy. Decide to vote for those who will enable those things you “independently” believe are important and valuable to your wellbeing and the wellbeing of those you hold dear. Support those who guarantee what freedoms and opportunities you enjoy; while, participating in your independence to gain those policies, laws and treatment you may feel you lack but demand as Americans.

From my foxhole, it is important to leverage the independence you possess. Actively practice and exercise, not just watch, the governance for the people and by the people you have and desire to enhance. Actively participate in determining your American future and exercise your independence, every day.

Maj. Gen. U.S. Army (ret.) John R Hawkins III, JD, MPA is president and CEO of Hawkins Solutions Intl., a government relations and lobby company. His last military assignment as a “two-star” was Director, Human Resources Directorate for the Army world-wide and prior to that deputy chief public affairs for the Army, world-wide.