I stood in the corner of the room — alone, except for the spirits of those inspired men who had been there before. My eyes wandered from chair to chair until they settled on the armchair at the front of the room where George Washington sat for nearly three months. On the back of the chair was carved a half sun. “I have often looked at that sun….” Though spoken more than two centuries earlier, the words of Benjamin Franklin still echoed in the chamber: “…without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun.”
It was my first visit to the Pennsylvania Statehouse, later to be known as Independence Hall. Julie and I went to Philadelphia for a family reunion, but also found ourselves reunited with our national heritage. As a student of the Constitution and an American history enthusiast, witnessing the room where our nation was born was truly a hallowed experience.
Around that small table at the front had assembled 56 courageous patriots who one by one affixed their signatures to the Declaration of Independence, not knowing at the time whether it constituted a proclamation of freedom or a death warrant. And 11 years later, 39 delegates rose from those seats to sign the newly adopted Constitution of the United States.
Within that red brick building, our Founding Fathers struggled with and debated many of the same issues we confront today: individual freedoms, property rights, commerce, federalism, radicalism, racism.
Since those debates, this nation has defeated tyrants and despots in defense of liberty.
We have escaped from national poverty and debt to foreign countries in our infancy and we will do it again as a developed nation.
We have risen from financial collapses to become the world’s economic leader.
We have endured corrupt politicians, do-nothing congresses, and inept presidents and we will survive the current administration and emerge with greater wisdom and determination.
Pundits and pessimists would have us believe that America is doomed by its current circumstances, but time and again in our history, when the odds were stacked against us, the American spirit has ascended and prevailed. We still have people who will rise from their seats and pledge their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honors in support of virtuous principles.
I concede that we face many challenges and problems in this country. We must openly acknowledge and vigorously confront them. But I will not accept the claims that the sun is setting on American’s future. We have the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun.
Sen. Brent Hill, of Rexburg, is the president pro tempore of the Idaho State Senate.