Today we as Americans celebrate our independence. Our independence is unique, for we, as a nation of ideas, can point to one seminal document for the principles that gave rise to our nation: The Declaration of Independence. And so it is fitting that today, more than 130,000 Americans stand guard in a country halfway around the world to guarantee those rights which that document proclaimed to be applicable to all men—not just to Americans. While Thomas Jefferson conceded that the ideas of the Declaration were not new but merely a recitation of the ideas found in the writings of men like Locke and Sydney, the restatement of these ideas in a document declaring these rights as a basis for the formation of a new nation was revolutionary then, and it is revolutionary now.
There are many who question the US endeavor in Iraq. Some question whether Iraqis have habituated the virtues or have the education necessary for successful self-rule. These are important questions, and ones which we will continue to consider in the coming days. But no one should doubt that the Iraqis as humans are equally entitled to the fundamental rights of life, liberty and happiness, and that their government should derive its just powers from the people. After all, we Americans proclaimed as much to them, not last year but 228 years ago.
The Forth of July in Iraq has been much like any other day. I have seen no barbeques, and (thankfully) there have been no local fireworks. Undoubtedly, the men and women serving here would rather be at home, enjoying a barbeque and a beer, and spending time with families and friends. But they are here, and they are here for an important purpose. They know why they are here, and many of them volunteered not just once to join the military, but a second time to come to Iraq. For this, we owe them a debt of gratitude. So as you sit around your barbeques today with your families celebrating our independence, take a moment to remember those soldiers throughout the world who cannot be with their families so that America can be secure, and so that a new nation may one day celebrate an independence day of its own.