America is a great and wonderful experiment. Sure, the experiment had been tried before July 4th, 1776-most notably, and probably originally, Athens-but it became widespread only after the American experiment. I am talking, of course, about democracy.
Democracy traces its origins to that small city-state on the Attic peninsula-Athens. Its name echoes in legend and lore as the birthplace of democracy. Unique even among other Greek city-states, Athens towers in Western civilization, and was certainly a model for the American experiment.
Other experiments at democracy rose and fell throughout history. Hampered by contending power blocks, destroyed by invasion, subject to militarism, and reined in by the church, none of these other experiments inspired like ours, like America.
Just think for a moment about the birth of America. It is almost absurd, this democracy thing, this purely elected government (although not everyone could vote). At the time of America’s founding, there was no real precedent anywhere in the world. Just think about it for a moment. What vision, what daring, what courage, what foolhardiness! It almost makes me gasp with amazement.
And from our great experiment flowed a giant wave. France, 1789, was the first rider on that wave, with various European nations and colonies following over the next 150 years. The wave is still flowing today, and we, the great experimenters, as we constantly tinker with our experiment, are riders on our own wave.
Happy Birthday America.
And happy Fourth of July everyone.
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