Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Happy Independence Day 2012. Simply calling this "the Fourth" misses the point. Today’s legal holiday exists not only to mark a legal event, the formal adoption of Thomas Jefferson’s eloquent Declaration, but as a time to reflect on the many blessings we share as Americans.
Before I was a lawyer, I had the best job in the world; I was a member of the Philmont Staff.
Philmont, I should add for my non-Scouting readers, is the premier High Adventure camp of the Boy Scout of America, each summer attracting thousands of young men and women for backpacking and unforgettable experiences. My own experiences at Philmont, located in the Sangre de Cristo range of the Rocky Mountains in northern New Mexico, are directly responsible for my decision to make Denver my home.
Before meals, I, my fellow staffers and the campers and Scout leaders across "the Ranch" would stop and say the Philmont Grace:
For food, for raiment,
For life, for opportunity,
For friendship and fellowship,
We thank Thee, O Lord.
My many summers at Philmont bound me to those words forever. The fact that my daughters picked it up at a Staff reunion and now say it at many evening meals gives me further opportunity to reflect on the grace.
The campers will say these words before their meals, mostly without any more thought than other public blessings. But there, in the middle, two phrases after "for raiment" (which admittedly made a few stop and ask its meaning--clothing), is a reminder of the definitive blessing of this day, of our independence: opportunity.
Images of friends from the Philmont Staff in 1980 and 1981 enjoying their day off (most of the Staff was not so lucky, Philmont is a 24/7 operation) at the annual 4th of July Maverick Rodeo in the nearby village of Cimarron, New Mexico illustrate this year’s Independence Day post.
My former series on our legal holidays (they’re all here, if you are curious; try Columbus Day if you are really curious) was my request that we not forget why we celebrate. Independence Day is one of the few that I still come back to year after year. While this holiday is easy on the surface, even young children understand a birthday party, the gifts received at that party are also easy to overlook. So it’s time to write some thank you notes. Happy Birthday to us, Americans. We’ve received that greatest gift of all—opportunity.
It is worth reading or hearing (the annual reading on National Public Radio is one of my favorite traditions) the Declaration from time-to-time if only to remind ourselves of the mutual pledge of our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor, with a reliance on the protection of divine Providence, that was made to give birth to our country.
Should we expect to sustain it with less?