Who Is Your “Founding Father”?

On July 4, 2012 by Eddie

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A few years ago I started reading John Adams, a biography by David McCullogh. I wasn’t thrilled to read it, Adams never really interested me much, but McCullogh is my favorite author and I thought I’d give it a try. I almost didn’t put it down until it was finished. Every night, I’d have some new story to tell my wife that I found completely fascinating. She kindly would listen to it as she dozed off, and most of the time she actually was still awake by the end of the story.

There was a lot about Adams that intrigued me. He was probably one of the most ambitious men in American history, but also one of the most self-sacrificing. He worked tirelessly for what he believed in, but he was passionately devoted to his wife and family. The love story of John and Abigail Adams is really incredible, probably the best example of a solid marriage in American politics (by a mile!).

But one of the things that struck me most about Adams was the fact that I knew absolutely nothing about him. Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton, even John Hancock – we know a lot about our Founding Fathers, but Adams gets left behind in most of the folklore. In fact, Adams was a huge player in what went down on July 4th. He laid the groundwork for it, set the process in motion, and fought hard to see it adopted. Jefferson himself said he was “the pillar of [the Declaration’s] support.” Yet in all of it, he was president only for a short time and made some bad calls in office, he fell out of favor in the public eye, and he’s not on a coin or a huge monument in Washington.

That, I think, is the best thing about Adams. He’s the perfect example of someone who gave up nearly his entire life for a cause, and when he died had little public support to show for it. Thinking about his life makes me wonder, what if I gave my life to provide for my family, or see an idea come to life, but died wondering if anyone really cared? If I knew that was how the story ended, would I still do it? Am I really passionate about what I believe in, or about seeing my face on my own “Mount Rushmore”? Honestly, that question is a lot harder to answer than I want to admit.

Today is a day to celebrate a lot of people like that. We literally stand “on the shoulders of giants,” unnamed people that gave up their lives to see something bigger than themselves happen. We have generations’ worth of unnamed heroes to thank for the freedom and prosperity that we have today. For some of us, it’s our parents or grandparents, and just like our founding fathers – they deserve a huge “thank you” for the life we enjoy today. For me, my mom and dad are “Founding Fathers.” They worked tirelessly to give my brothers and I a life that we never had, and they are definitely worth celebrating today.

Who are your “Founding Fathers”? Whose shoulders are you standing on today?

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