On this day 231 years ago, 56 Americans signed their names to a revolutionary document. In so doing, they branded themselves as traitors and risked paying an awful price. They also defined what it means to be a citizen of the United States.
Not only did Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and all the others declare our independence from a king, but they also set forth on paper who we are as a people. We have tried to live up to their ideals ever since. We succeed, sometimes in surprising ways, but we also fail. We stumble. We stagger up. And we try again.
To be a patriot of the United States is to remember who we are.
To be a patriot of the United States is to hold our neighbors and our government accountable.
To be a patriot of the United States is to hold even ourselves to these ideals as difficult as they may sometimes be to follow.
To forget -- to claim that "all" means only our friends, only our family, only our closest neighbors or only the people within our borders -- is to turn our backs on the legacy of our founders. It is to lose our way as Americans.
Two hundred and thirty one years ago, brave people signed their names to the most revolutionary idea of all:
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.
Amid the fireworks and barbeques today, I pray that we can remember what our country is supposed to be.
Even in a time of war, terror and fear, we must remember our ideals. We do not stand for torture, persecution of others, discrimination and the imperial idea that we can do anything we want to anyone who frightens us.
On this day, let us remember who we are.