We have one job at this or any newspaper and that's to figure
out what's happening that's important and tell you about it.
Occasionally the mere fact of us knowing something manages to
fix it a problem all by itself. A quick case in point, not long
ago we caught wind of a well-intentioned but truly awful county
law being proposed; our objections were quietly relayed, the
law was withdrawn. But that's the exception rather than the
rule. Generally, like most people, we have to speak up publicly
for what we think needs to happen. We do that of course on this
editorial page, as most of you know we typically do it straighter
and sometimes more forcefully than other newspapers. That I
suppose, is the lone prerogative of truly independent media;
most of you I'm sure realize that in our increasingly sanitized
culture there's precious little of that anymore.
But the truth is whatever we say, little usually comes of it.
We frame big issues, we try and provide some direction where
it's lacking or where some practical or ethical or constitutional
question hasn't adequately entered the pubic dialogue. And then
we just hope for the best. Like everyone else, we're sometimes
disappointed with how things work out but we keep trying anyway.
That in a nutshell is what made this country, small groups of
dedicated people working under deadlines and pressures and all
kinds of difficult circumstances to try and make things work
as well as they can.
On July 4th we commemorate the adoption of the Declaration of
Independence, probably the most important document written in
the past five hundred years. Drafted by Thomas Jefferson, it
was finalized and presented to the Continental Congress by the
Committee of Five: Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin,
Roger Sherman of Connecticut, and Robert Livingston from just
up the Hudson at Clermont. In appreciation perhaps, the British
burned Livingston's house in 1777 after doing the same to Kingston.
Twelve years later, he administered the presidential oath to
Our history here in this region is the history of America and
as we celebrate our nation's founding this year we should remember
that. We are this country, this country is us and people very
much like us, as different as some might seem. We are our past,
our present, and our future; what we do collectively is important
whether that's locally, regionally, or out in the world beyond.
Our obligation to our children is to honor and protect our past
and not just because our history matters. We need to do it because
our future matters and it's still ours, and theirs, to create.
So we ask you this Fourth of July to take this to heart. Think
about what being an American means to you. And for any skeptics
amongst you that's not some piece of nationalistic jingoism,
it's a simple reminder that who we are together is a reflection
of who we are individually. And after you've thought about it,
we ask you to think about how you, personally, can help take
responsibility for that future, and how you can best...participate.
Because people stepping up to take personal responsibility is
how our communities and our country are going to get through
whatever lies ahead, just as it was in the days of our Founding
On July 1st, 1776, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigale about
the importance of the document they'd just finished editing.
Its adoption he told her "ought to be commended as a day
of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.
It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows,
games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from
one end of this continent to the other from this time forward
It was a fascinatingly prescient observation, as the thirteen
colonies didn't extend more than maybe 300 miles inland from
the Atlantic. But everything about the Declaration of Independence
prefigured the future with a clarity that even to this day is
startling. Jefferson's document articulated for the first time
a sweeping declaration to the world of natural human rights
including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. All men
are created equal, said Jefferson, governments derive their
just powers from the consent of the governed. And even as we
take such ideas for granted today, the world into which they
were received was very different indeed.
Lincoln believed Jefferson's words to be the statement of principles
through which our constitution should be interpreted and we
agree. More than just their author and more than the soul of
our nation, Thomas Jefferson was the man who proved that great
ideas and the power of the words we wrap them in can change
reality. It's time to make his birthday, April 13th, into a
national holiday. But between now and the time that happens,
we ask you to honor the man with a simple gesture; raise a glass
to him this and every Fourth of July. Sure it's a new tradition
but if it's going to catch on, it's got to start someplace.
In the meantime, we hope you all, visitors included, have a
great holiday weekend. The creeks are perfect for whatever one
cares to do in them, our forests are beautiful and inviting,
and the High Peaks with their trails and vistas magical as always.
Our cultural climate is rich and widening, our communities are
strong and there's energy and creativity even as we struggle
through tough economic times. So let's keep watching out for
each other, let's support the local businesses that help support
all of us, and let's make it a great summer for everyone.