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Greetings, Joe’s readers. The 4th of July is next Tuesday. We will celebrate the courageous and breathtaking chances our first leaders took when setting up the United States of America, and the people who carried forward the promises of a free and equal country. Our nation is experiencing a time of conflict and anger now, as it has many times before, and, like each of those times before, I expect the county will emerge from the struggle closer to freedom for all.

Our first leaders, coming from an experience of monarchy and long reigns for rulers, decided to base their new government on elections by the people being governed, and to have a peaceful transfer of power. No overthrowing (or killing) one leader to install another, but a voluntary giving up of power. That was such an amazing concept for a brand new country to even try. It is still an amazing concept even today. We see it play out on all levels, from school board members to state legislators, to governors, to federal legislators, to the president. That much turn-over in leadership, and it has made our country among the most stable governments in the world. That is something to celebrate.

We also have something to celebrate in these words from the preamble to the Declaration of Independence: 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.

When I was a child in school, I was taught that the word men in this statement meant mankind, and included women and children in the unalienable rights too. I was also taught that when the country began, voting rights applied to only white men, aged 21 years or older, who owned land. That shiny ideal that all people are created equal and endowed with certain rights was a long way from practice when our country started. In fact, with slavery, indentured servants, and class systems, the country was as far from the shiny ideal as it could be. But it was a beginning.

Every day, month, year, decade, generation, and century that goes by we get closer to equal rights for all. With non-land owners getting the vote, the official end to slavery, black men getting the vote and then getting elected to offices, women getting the vote and getting elected to offices, the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the legalization of same-sex marriages, and every other step small and large, The United States of America has moved closer to that beacon in the distance. Social change is slow, even at times when it comes in big bursts. But no matter the speed, social change is always headed towards that awesome ideal given to us all at the beginning of this nation: That all are created equal with certain unalienable rights.

Happy July 4th everybody. Have a great weekend, take care, and happy reading.

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