Saturday, June 28, 2008

July 4, 1776: Birth of a Nation



EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., June 28, 2008 -- As we celebrate our nation's 232nd birthday, it's humbling to look back and imagine the difficulties faced by those leaders who were "eyes on" the formation of a new republic.

In 1776, the idea of a new world colony gaining independence from the world's most powerful country appeared a bit far-fetched, and in some circles of European society, an amusing and deadly venture. Yet despite the daunting challenges, there was enough creative energy among our very different colonial state leaders to organize a new government and fight for survival.

The key to success was leadership; both in the planning stages of a new government and directly on the battlefield. Our founding fathers understood the power of leading from the front.

In the planning stage for a new republic, the Continental Congress was wise enough to select five successful leaders to write and publish the Declaration of Independence. This ultimate working group included Thomas Jefferson, age 33; John Adams, age 41; and Benjamin Franklin, the senior mentor at age 70.

Their finished product brazenly told the world the United States of America was open for business. The signers of the Declaration of Independence publicly put their relatively cozy lives and fortunes on the line for a new form of government.

More importantly, the Declaration of Independence helped Gen. George Washington rally his troops by putting on paper the ideals and freedoms they were fighting to establish, preserve and protect. General Washington faced incredible manpower and resource shortfalls on the battlefield in 1776. He persevered by keeping our fighting forces intact, picking his battles wisely, and understanding that as long as we had a military we had a nation.

General Washington's art of the long view is something we all need to remember the next time we complain about resource shortfalls or the direction of our own organizations.

So a hearty "Happy birthday" to the United States of America! As a nation we have both sputtered and soared through the centuries and decades. We were, and still are, imperfect at times. Yet during other periods we seem blessed with providence. And while fate certainly is a factor in any nation's success, I believe leadership and just plain hard work generated our own good fortune.

In the end, we have survived every challenge and we remain this world's best example of what Abraham Lincoln called a nation of the people, by the people and for the people.

(Commentary by Col. Steve DePalmer, 53rd Wing.)

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