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Editorial | Island Voices

Enduring commitment to life, liberty

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"No event in American history which was so improbable at the time has seemed so inevitable in retrospect as the American Revolution." Historian Joseph Ellis makes a point worth reflection on this Independence Day. Looking back, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that the success of our young nation in the midst of all that confronted our founding generation was extremely unlikely.

As we celebrate this weekend with family and friends, let us recall, with great optimism and pride, the adversity the United States has often overcome, despite unfavorable odds, through a steadfast commitment to life and liberty. It is essential that we appreciate the enduring value of such commitment. The continued success of our nation, and the broader human endeavor, depends upon it.

The challenges that lay ahead after Thomas Jefferson immortalized the words "all men are created equal" were immense. Consider that while John Hancock and the Continental Congress were declaring independence in Philadelphia, General Washington was in New York. Together with his scruffy Continental Army, he was watching the arrival of one of the largest invasion forces in history. By August of 1776, more than 30,000 British troops—a number larger than the entire population of New York City—had arrived in some 400 ships and landed on Staten Island. Despite daunting odds against success, our forbearers stood their ground and, as we now know, ultimately triumphed in that struggle.

Americans have done so ever since.

Today we commemorate the 234th anniversary of those dramatic world-changing events when, for the first time, a great nation was founded on a principle: that all deserve to enjoy life, liberty and an opportunity to pursue happiness. Since those rough days in the early years of the Revolution, Americans have triumphed repeatedly in the face of tremendous adversity. Time and again, we have served and sacrificed for the Jeffersonian ideals that define our nation; and, in each and every case, our nation emerged from the test stronger, more influential and more prosperous.

Today, great Americans continue to serve and sacrifice; inspired by and drawing upon the strength, courage and example of those who preceded them. And again, America will succeed, despite a confluence of seemingly insurmountable global and domestic challenges.

The American experience in Hawaii attests to that. Our 50th state has played an important role spearheading our nation’s ability to succeed under duress. Here, a very special and historic civil-military relationship exists that traces its roots back to a period not long after Washington and his army took on the Red Coats. It is a relationship that met the adversity of Dec. 7, 1941. It is a relationship upon which victory in the Pacific depended, and upon which national and regional security has relied ever since.

Hawaii offers a strategic oasis in the midst of the largest body of water on earth, not to mention warm aloha, sheltered seaports, and an unwavering support to our military and their families. Thanks to Hawaii, its citizenry and the military personnel stationed here and deployed across the region, our nation is able to contribute in astounding ways in the Asia-Pacific; protecting U.S. national interests, representing the inalienable rights we celebrate today, and contributing to the security upon which prosperity depends.

On this special day, I am immensely proud and grateful to serve with so many remarkable soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and service families in this special American place, our Aloha State.

As we reflect on the epic importance of the Fourth of July, may we never lose sight of the challenges our great nation has overcome, of what Hawaii and our military enables, and of what so many Americans have done and will do in the continuing pursuit of life and liberty.

Adm. Robert F. Willard
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM)
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