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Jefferson forged American spirit by candlelight

  • Published
  • By Col Dwight Sones
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing commander
The American Enlightenment was an intellectual movement during the mid-1700s. A leader of this movement, Thomas Jefferson, accepted the responsibility to write the first draft of a document that would become the culminating masterpiece of the American Enlightenment.

In June of 1776, over the period of three weeks, Jefferson wrote through the day and at night by candlelight at the Graff House just outside of Philadelphia. The final masterpiece brought light and inspiration to the like-minded people around him. The second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776. More than two centuries and many generations of Americans later, it is easy to forget what the Fourth of July represents for the U.S. It is a celebration of the American spirit forged by candlelight and protected throughout our history by members of the armed forces.

James Keller wrote, "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle." The signing of the Declaration and the prosperity we have seen in America is evidence that the light created together is greater than the light of one.

Today, all over the world, people are fighting and dying for the freedom and democracy that we hold sacred in America. Enemies of freedom have challenged the American spirit at distinct moments in our history: the American Revolution, Pearl Harbor and  9/11. How we react to these events defines us as Americans. These events remind us that we must support like-minded people around the world so that we do not have to face enemies of freedom on our own soil. Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Guardsmen are candles that provide hope around the globe to kindred spirits that embrace the same vision of revolutionary leaders like Thomas Jefferson.

On this Fourth of July celebrate the American spirit. With the opportunities and liberties we have as Americans, it becomes more difficult over time to understand the significance of what our founding fathers declared more than 200 years ago.

As a volunteer Airman serving your country, you understand this spirit. I want you to know that you are a candle. Whether you are here at Travis, in your community or serving overseas, you are a candle that represents the American spirit.

Thank you for your service to this great nation and have a wonderful Fourth of July.