THE DECLARATION OF Independence has been described as the birth certificate of the American nation, the first public document ever to use the name the United States of America, and has been fundamental to American history longer than any other text.

It enshrined what came to be seen as the most succinct and memorable statement of the ideals on which the United States was founded: the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; the consent of the government and resistance to tyranny. It all started 245 years ago.

No American document has had a greater impact on the wider world. As the first successful declaration of independence in history, it helped to inspire countless movements for independence, self-determination and revolution after 1776 and to this very day.

The document gave a ringing endorsement of the sanctity of the individual “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.”

The declaration was addressed as much to the world at large as to the population of the American colonies. Key author Thomas Jefferson appealed to “the opinions of Mankind.” They presented facts to prove that King George III had acted tyrannically. They said his colonial subjects could rightfully leave the British Empire.

This weekend reminds us that being an American offers us incredible opportunities, but it also places upon us responsibilities. While we’re all proud to be Americans, what that means to each of us can be significantly different. The system we live under isn’t perfect, but the second-best system isn’t worth considering.

As we celebrate our nation’s freedom, we honor the courageous men and women dedicated to preserving it. America is a nation where the spirit of pride, greatness and honor is common to every soul. Patriotism is easy to understand in America. It means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country.

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THE GREATEST waste of our natural resources is the number of people who never achieve their potential. How we perform as individuals will determine how we perform as a nation. We are urged to aim so high that we’ll never be bored.

If you think you can’t be successful, you probably can’t. If you think you can, there’s a good chance you will. Reputations are made by searching for things that can’t be done and doing them. Aim low, boring. Aim high, soaring.

Something in America is spinning out of control. There used to be widely shared boundaries on personal and public behavior said Dan Henninger of the Wall Street Journal. A lot of people no longer know how to behave or where the lines are that one shouldn’t cross.

We are paying a high price for this transition to few limits. Most striking is how many people have become unconscious of or psychologically detached from the consequences of what they are doing. Every day the media tells us about how people have lashed out without fear of the consequences.

Look how we accept, tolerate and react to political street protests; the violence of rising urban crime and cops either shooting suspects or getting shot by suspects, and committed routinely by mental-health sufferers.

Whatever happened to the thought “Maybe I don’t want to do this?” or “Maybe I shouldn’t do this.” Where are our social guardrails? Social media has allowed us to say and do things previously forbidden.

Somehow, that internal brake on behavior eroded and now, we too often find ourselves dealing with the grim, out of control results. When officials desert norms of public or personal behavior, expect a bad outcome.