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Molly Cherry Yesterday, most of us likely spent the day celebrating.  Each year, on the Fourth of July, parties abound throughout our nation.  Many offices close, either early or for the day entirely.  It’s the day when we, as citizens of the United States, celebrate our freedom.   Caught up in the fun of barbecues and fireworks, it’s easy to forget exactly why and what we're celebrating.

The Declaration of Independence was our country’s first formal statement asserting our right to choose our own government.  It is considered one of the three essential founding documents for the U.S. government, together with our Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  The signers of the Declaration came from a variety of backgrounds.  Notably, however, of the 56 men who signed, 25 of them were attorneys.  Indeed, our country exists today in large part because of attorneys! 

Although those 25 lawyers were men, women played an important role in the birth of our nation, too.  Indeed, one woman in particular is credited with publicizing the Declaration of Independence to most Americans during the revolutionary period:  Mary Katherine Goddard.  Not in July of 1776, but in January of 1777, Congress ordered that “an authenticated Copy of the DECLARATION of INDEPENDENCY . . . be sent to each of the UNITED STATES…”  Ms. Goddard was tasked with the job of printing this new copy of the Declaration.  Keep in mind the risk for Ms. Goddard at the time, in that she, as publisher, was endorsing treason along with the signers.

However, Ms. Goddard, along with our founding fathers, had an important message to share with the American public in declaring our nation’s independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”  What an amazing start to our fledgling nation and an enduring legacy.

As we celebrate the birth of our nation and reflect on the principles upon which our country is founded, let us not forget the many instances we see every day of inequality, including income disparity, race, gender and access to healthcare and our justice system, to name only a few.  With our training as attorneys, we have the ability to effect change in our communities, locally, regionally and nationally, and to address the inequalities we see and even experience ourselves.   In our role as attorneys and, importantly, as citizens, we have the right and, indeed, responsibility to participate in our government and help secure those inalienable rights for all women and men in our nation.   Attorneys played a key role in the founding of our country, and we continue to play a critical role in her growth today.

Happy Independence Day!

Molly Cherry