Not long after 56 men signed a document that would change the world, and put humanity on an upward trajectory toward freedom and prosperity, they selected a famous British General to lead the Continental Army.
The choice was critical since each man had pledged his life, his fortune and his sacred honor to the cause. Each knew that if they failed, all would hang for treason. Each knew also that there would be bounties placed on their lives, their wives’ lives, and their children while the coming war would be waged.
In fact, many of those men did lose their lives. Many lost their fortunes. Many lost their families. But, none lost their honor. They stayed the course–no matter the price. And we are richer for it today.
As I am packing my home to move out of state, I stood today at the wash stand that has come down to me through the centuries in our family. In a small upstate village on the Vermont/New York border, Washington was recruiting to try to fill out his army. Most of you may not know that the whole American Revolution was supported by a tiny percentage of the population.
Like any great recruiter, Washington painted the vision, but he also offered incentives for those who might enlist and fight. John Adsit, my ancestor, was a poor man who dreamed of one day owning land. George Washington signed a land grant to him that day, giving him and his heirs property. He sat at the humble wash stand which was the only place available, and promised the land to our family–if they won.
John Adsit was not a young man, but he had a dream. And he knew that a free society was necessary for him or his descendants to ever have anything. So, he signed. He went with Washington, leaving the family behind. He stayed the course of the entire war, and he returned to work the land.
Why? The promise of freedom and prosperity resonated with him I would guess. And so he too pledged his life, his fortune (which was small), and his sacred honor to the cause. Wealthy and poor alike believed in the dream and the rewards, and they fought and bled together to bring about opportunity for generations to come.
Today, as you eat your hot dogs, and bar-b-q, please reflect on the vision that precedes you, on the commitment that precedes you, which affords us a land where men and women are free to pursue their dreams. We are not guaranteed the outcome of our efforts. But we have been given the chance to expend our effort.
Ask yourself, what are you willing to pledge your life, your fortune, and your sacred honor to? Hopefully you know. But, if not, pray for the wisdom to identify something worth your life, worth your fortune, and which requires your honor.
Enjoy your day. Enjoy your family and friends, and a delicious meal. As for me, I look at that table, and salute a man who 8 generations ago, risked it all–for me.
Happy Birthday, America!