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Independence Day 2006

July 04, 2006

Today The Herald-Mail is publishing a combined edition of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail, to allow at least some of our employees to celebrate Independence Day. Through the years, July 4 has traditionally been marked with parades, family get-togethers and public concerts of patriotic music.

Whatever form your celebration takes, we urge you to spend at least a small part of it reflecting on the origins of this holiday, and on what all Americans owe to those who decided that this collection of British colonies ought to be a country more than 200 years ago.

Now by itself, that decision wasn't remarkable. In the past 50 years, we've seen a host of former colonies in Africa and satellites of the Soviet Union change their form of government. No, the American experience is unique because the founders had the wisdom to write a Constitution that still functions well two centuries later.

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Think of all that it guarantees: The right to free expression and to arm oneself against the possibility of a tyrannical state. Those are just two of the rights that many Americans take for granted, while even today residents of foreign countries are dragged away, never to be seen again, just for owning a weapon or questioning the wisdom of their countries' leaders.

Americans can't be forced to testify against themselves in court or have their property seized without fair compensation. They have a right to a speedy trial by jury in most civil and criminal cases.

As for the national government, it was designed to prevent any one branch from becoming too powerful or making secret alliances with other countries.

To preserve these rights, the first American patriots risked being hung as traitors. Later others fought to preserve the union during the Civil War. And, when global peace was threatened, Americans participated in two world wars and in a series of smaller conflicts stretching through time from Korea to Kuwait to Iraq.

U.S. soldiers fought, giving up years and sometimes their lives, to preserve the real American dream. During your holiday celebration, take a moment to reflect on those who, because of their sacrifice, made it possible for you to enjoy it.

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