The U.S. President typically presents a “State of the Union” message in January, but perhaps July 4, America’s birthday, is an even better time to examine the principles on which the nation was founded.

During the first Continental Congress, the original 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence. It was drafted by Thomas Jefferson and has been considered by many to be the foundational document of American freedom.

It refers to self-evident truths that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The document further resolves that the new nation will secure these rights through a process of government that derives its power from the consent of the governed.

A dozen years later, the U.S. Constitution further laid out how the new government would operate, with the first three articles setting forth the concept of separation of powers dividing the federal government into three branches: legislative, executive and judicial.

The next three articles describe the rights and responsibilities of state governments, the states in relationship to the federal government, and the shared process of constitutional amendment.

The original document included only these articles, plus a seventh that established a ratification procedure.

There have been 27 updates to the Constitution through the years, most of which focus on the protection of individual rights and none of which have substantially altered the document’s federalism concept.

Freedom House, a bipartisan agency that follows how well the nation is on track when it comes to adhering to its freedom principles is sounding the alarm about threats to American democracy. a threat termed as “perhaps the greatest challenge it’s seen in modern history.”

More disturbing is the source of the challenge — the U.S. President.

In a recent Freedom House report, organization president Mike Abramowit writes, “Trump has assailed essential institutions and traditions including the separation of powers, a free press, an independent judiciary, the impartial delivery of justice, safeguards against corruption, and most disturbingly, the legitimacy of elections. We cannot take for granted that institutional bulwarks against abuse of power will retain their strength, or that our democracy will endure perpetually. Rarely has the need to defend its rules and norms been more urgent.”

Any citizen who closely follows national news will be able to pinpoint specific examples that bear out the fears expressed by Abramowit. The concerns are fitting ones to ponder as this nation celebrates its 243rd birthday.

Let’s consider these questions: Have the government structure and foundation principles served us well through the years? Can you think of any other country where you would prefer to live that would offer the freedoms and benefits that are available in the United States? Is this nation’s heritage and future worth fighting for?

If the answers are yes, the first step is to give thanks for all the blessings we have in America.

The second step is to ask yourself if you are doing all you can to preserve that which we hold dear.

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