Our country was founded by idealists and dreamers, who fought for their ideals. And 246 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Americans continue to fight — for justice, for the rights of the governed, for fairness, equity, and a livable future.
I’ve reflecting today on the dedication of those I have I have known over the past two decades who have fought those battles, in the face of what sometimes seem to be overwhelming odds. It is akin to the dedication shown by those who supported the founders of our country 246 years ago. Many of them took an oath to defend the country, knowing that the country had just been founded, and that they would face enormous difficulties. The oath approved by the Continental Congress on October 24, 1776 reads:
I do swear that I will, to the utmost of my power, support, maintain, and defend the said United States against the said king, George the third, and his heirs and successors, and his and their abettors, assistants and adherents and will serve the said United States in the office of _____, which I now hold, and in any other office which I may hereafter hold by their appointment, or under their authority, with fidelity and honour, and according to the best of my skill and understanding. So help me God.
The following year, 12,000 people—soldiers, mechanics, women, and children marched into Valley Forge. Starvation and disease killed more than 1,000 soldiers. They suffered from gnawing hunger and cold. But they persevered and founded our country.
People in our era who are fighting for the future don’t face starvation and disease, but they do face fear, discouragement and despair. But their work is in a long tradition of American idealism and dedication in the face of grim realities.
Many have fought for decades as we face increasing social and political instability, and recently, cascading disasters from climate change. Now is not the time to lose hope, but to remember that our country has come through dark times before, and to search within ourselves for that same courage and perseverance that brought our forbearers through such times. It will be needed in days to come.