July 31, 2012

Gail Devers Conquered Cancer and the Olympics

As a family, we are LOVING the Olympics!  Particularly wonderful are the back stories of the athletes.  I love to hear of the things they conquered to reach the Olympic stage.  School starting next week seems a distant worry.  

I remember one Olympic athlete who has a great story.  Gail Devers was a typical kid growing up in the Los Angeles area, just a few years younger than myself.  She started running track in High School and found that she liked it.  Moving on to college in 1984, at UCLA she found that she was REALLY good at certain events.  The coach, Robert Kersee, set high goals for Gail.  She thought he was crazy, but did what he said and began reaching the crazy high goals he had set.  She started shaving tenths of seconds, then seconds off her times in the 100 meter sprint and the 100 meter hurdles, her best events.  But more importantly, Kersee insisted that Gail consider herself a future Olympian.  He encouraged her to watch the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and picture herself there.  

Gail worked hard and became the Olympic athlete that Coach Kersee saw in her.  She qualified for the 1988 Seoul Olympics in the 100 hurdles after setting a US record.  But in Seoul, she performed poorly, and didn’t make the finals.  Going home filled with doubt must have been hard, but the next few months were even harder.  She began to feel worse as her health deteriorated.  

Doctors were baffled by her symptoms:  hair loss, vision loss, shaking, lethargy, extreme weight loss (she weighed only 87 pounds at one point), skin problems and other strange seemingly unrelated problems.  Back at home with her parents, she gave up all Olympic-sized goals and just tried to survive.  For 2 and a half years, she languished, hoping to get better.  She stopped going out in public when a child at the grocery store said about Gail, “Mom, what is wrong with that woman?  She looks like a monster.”   Gail explained, “I felt like a leper.  I was shedding clumps of hair. Most of the skin fell away from my face; the rest merely hung off it.”  It was just easier to stay home.  But to feel that she had some future in the Olympics, Gail lifted telephone books as she lay in bed.  

Finally, Doctors diagnosed her with Graves Disease, a cancer of the thyroid gland.  Instead of surgically removing the thyroid gland, Doctors gave Gail radiation in liquid form, which she would drink.  She was warned to keep the nauseating liquid down, or they’d have to give her more.  Doctors urged Gail to also take Beta-blocking drugs, which would help her deal with the side effects of the radiation.  But Gail refused.  It was a banned substance in the sports community.  Even an appeal to the International Association of Athletics Federation didn’t help.  They said that if she was tested and it showed up in her system, she would be banned from competing.  

Gail noticed side effects immediately.  Her feet developed severe bleeding blisters, some so large and painful that she couldn’t walk.   To get around, she crawled.  In February 1991, she was rushed to the hospital where doctors considered amputating her swollen pus-oozing feet to save her life.  Gail said, “I prayed to God: 'Not my feet, please. If you save them, I will use them for however long you wish me to.'“  Her radiation treatment was to blame—her dosage was too strong.  The radiation had not only destroyed the cyst and diseased portion of her thyroid gland, it nearly destroyed her thyroid gland completely.  And lack of the Beta-blockers enabled that massive secondary infection to take hold in her feet.  With a change in medication, she finally began to improve.  Within a month, Gail was walking again.  Some doctors are amazed she survived at all.  

As her health returned, her focus on the Olympics returned as well.  In March of 1991, she began training with Coach Kersee again.  Sportswriter Kenny Moore wrote, “It was the start of the greatest comeback in track history.”  Within just a few months, Gail won the Silver medal in the 1991 World Championships held in Tokyo in August 1991 in the 100 meter hurdles.  Just months earlier, Gail had been fighting for her life.  

Gail recalled, “A year later I was standing on the starting line for the Olympic 100m final in Barcelona. That was a difficult sensation to describe. Nineteen months earlier I had been crawling on my hands and knees. Now, although I was in lane two and no one gave me a chance, I told myself: 'I'm not afraid of anything or anybody. God, let your will be done.' I won the race. I was an Olympic champion - and I defended my title four years later at the Atlanta Games of 1996. But winning that first gold was indescribable.”

Many remember Gail for another triumph following a setback.  Gail had been favored to win Gold medals in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics in the 100 meter sprint and the 100 meter hurdles, her two best events.   As she described above, Gail won gold in the 100 meter sprint as planned.  But as she was stretched over the final hurdle, leading the 100 meter hurdle race, her foot caught the hurdle, tripping her.  She fell, quickly recovered and finished fourth.  Experts say that she would have set a World Record had she stayed on her feet.  That stumble just fortified her resolve to return in 4 years to the next Olympic Games.  Gail won the Gold medal in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in this event, as well as defending her 100 meter sprint Gold medal.  She also won another Gold Medal as part of the 4x100 meter sprint relay team.  Later Gail competed in the 2000 and 2004 Olympic games. 

In looking back on her accomplishments, Gail said, “Looking back, I'm so proud to have gone to five Olympics - I believe only three other Americans have achieved that. My true gold medal, though, is my daughter, Karsen. And I have a wonderful husband, Mike. I'd always wanted to be a teacher, and I feel I am now. The world is my classroom - my story can surely help and educate people.”
Personally, I think she’s right; we can all learn a lot from Gail.  She struggled for more than 2 years with a debilitating untreated disease when she had expected to be competing athletically.  She relied on God, praying for help in her recovery and in retaining her feet when they were at risk of amputation.  She rebuilt her health and physical stamina to win several gold medals in her chosen sport.  She exhibited faith and courage in dealing with her setbacks.  Additionally, Gail understands the importance of family!  We can all use that example in our lives!


“Gail Devers.” Wikipedia Web. 30 July 2012.
Jackson, Jamie.  “Triumph and Despair.  Gail Devers: 'A Girl Asked What Was Wrong With Me. She Said I Looked Like a Monster.'  Her Hair Fell Out, Her Skin Hung Off Her Face and Then, When She Began Radiation Therapy for a Thyroid Disease, the American Sprinter Was Told She Might Lose Her Feet. Within Two Years She Was Back and Winning Olympic Gold.”  The Observer 31 March 2007:  n. pag. Web. 31 July 2012.
Moore, Kenny.  “Gail Force:  Driven by a Vision, Gail Devers Made an Amazing Comeback from a Crippling Illness to Win Olympic Gold.”  Sports Illustrated, 10 May 1993: n. page. Web. 30 July 2012.

July 24, 2012

Derek Redmond, Climbing Half Dome and Receiving Aid from Fathers

Scott and I celebrate Half Dome by crossing our hiking staffs
Scott and I just returned today from California after climbing up to Half Dome.  It was a strenuous hike, harrowing at times because of the steep slippery granite terrain.  First I had to battle my fear of heights—Half Dome majestically towers over Yosemite Valley at the elevation of 8800 feet.  Then I had my physical preparation—I had trained for several months for this, but had been hobbled a few months ago when I twisted my ankle.  I found myself really struggling to catch my breath in such thin air at this elevation.  The trail ascends upward to gain about 5000 feet in elevation from the valley floor.  It took 14 hours to cover the 17 miles we traversed to get up and back.  At one point, I was weeping as I prayed for help climbing up the steep incline of Sub Dome, which sits at the base of the peak of Half Dome.  Heavenly Father helped me overcome my fears and ascend that hurdle.  On Sub dome, I enjoyed a stunning view of Yosemite Valley and the surrounding High Sierra Mountains.

This experience made me think of an Olympic athlete who received the help of his father to complete his race.  Derek Redmond, a 28 year old British athlete, was competing in the 400 meter semifinals during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.  He was favored to win this event and showed his strength as he led the pack around the track.  

As he rounded a corner with 250 meters to go, he collapsed in agony.  It felt like he had been hit by an arrow in the back of his leg.  His hamstring had torn—an extremely painful injury.  Medical personnel raced to help him, but he waved them off.  He struggled to his feet and continued around the track, hopping on his good leg.  His competitors had already sped past him—he clearly had no chance of winning anymore.  But Derek was intent on finishing this race.  He would not drop out.  

Meanwhile, Derek’s dad Jim was on his feet.  He scrambled through the crowds from his seat in the bleachers and barged past security to get onto the track.  He rushed to his son.  “You don’t have to put yourself through this,” he told Derek.  Derek said simply, “Yes, I do.”  Jim responded, “Well then, we’re going to finish this together.”  He wrapped his strong arms around his son, pulled him close and supported him as he limped to the finish line.  The 65,000 spectators stood applauding this display of individual determination and fatherly love and support.  

One commentator wrote, “Derek didn’t walk away with the gold medal, but he walked away with an incredible memory of a father who, when he saw his son in pain, left his seat in the stands to help him finish the race.”  Although Derek finished dead last, with his fathers’ support, he DID finish!  

Often we can’t do what we set out to do alone.  Even with the best preparation and most earnest effort, there are things we can’t control.  Even if your dad isn’t physically there to help you and support you, you always can count on your Heavenly Father to help.  I know I needed His help to reach Half Dome, and we really need His help and support daily in our smaller challenges.  He has told us to rely on Him through the prophet Joshua, “Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”  (Joshua 1:9.)    

For more information, see:
Harris, Gerald.  Olympic Heroes; World-Class Athletes Winning at Life pp. 53-56.

Watch the event described here on YouTube by searching “Derek Redmond 1992 Olympics.”

If you’d like to learn more about our hike up Half Dome, see http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/halfdome.htm  The video shows the climb very realistically.  

July 16, 2012

Jesse Owens Overcame Much to Dispel Aryan Supremacy Myth

With the Olympics opening very soon, I thought I’d turn my attention to another person who stood up to Hitler.  J.C. or Jesse Owens, a renowned Olympic athlete, famously showed Hitler in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games that Africans are not inferior to Aryan or White peoples.

Hitler had prepared Germany well for the Olympic Games.  He had stoked National pride by erecting fantastic facilities for the games and preparing his German athletes to win in every event.  It was the first time the hosting Olympic city had built an Olympic village, which consisted of housing facilities for the foreign visiting athletes.  German athletes had trained long and hard to compete aggressively in all events, even ones that they historically had never won.  A newly constructed Autobahn system of highways impressed foreigners with its modernity.  Zeppelins, huge hydrogen-filled airships, added to the spectacle.

Hitler had garnered power by preaching a flawed doctrine called ‘Aryan Supremacy.’  It was that the Nordic derived white race was superior to all other world races, which he called ‘subhuman.’  Hitler claimed the role of custodian of human culture and planned to eliminate all other races.  He orchestrated the efforts of his police to systematically ‘remove’ more than 6 million Jews, gypsies, blacks, Slavs, communists, Catholics and other human ‘animals.’  The Nazi regime would do this by shooting, hanging, gassing and/or burning.  The Olympic Games of 1936 were a chance for the German people to validate Hitler’s belief in Aryan superiority.  

When Jesse Owens arrived in Germany for the games, he was a bit unnerved by the evident disdain for his race by the German people.  Growing up in Alabama as the youngest son of 10 children to a poor sharecropper, he was used to poor treatment by whites.  Daily he worked in the fields his dad cultivated, perhaps near where his grandfather had labored as a slave.  He picked cotton, and planted and harvested vegetables.  His poor diet created health problems as a child, including Bronchitis that often turned into Pneumonia.  He also suffered from boils that appeared on his chest and legs.  His mother would cut them out with a hot kitchen knife, since they had no money to see a doctor.  He once stepped in a steel hunting trap, another time he was run over by a wagon.  It was amazing that he survived his childhood, and even more astounding that he became an Olympic Athlete.

When Jesse was 9, the family moved to Cleveland Ohio to seek a better life.  Everyone took a job, even young Jesse, and the family pooled their resources to succeed where they couldn’t in the segregated South.  It was here that his new teacher heard ‘Jesse’ instead of ‘J.C.’ when he introduced himself in his thick southern drawl.  He went by Jesse after that.  In his spare time, Jesse loved to run.  He became a wonderful runner and athlete, with the help of his Junior High School coach.  Coach Riley saw potential in this young man and allowed him to practice before school so he could skip afternoon practice to work at his job at the shoe repair shop.  

Jesse thrived socially, making friends with his ‘winsome smile and gregarious personality.’  He was even elected student body president in his senior year!  In addition, he was voted captain of the track team.  He tried out for the 1932 Olympic Games, but failed to qualify.  Undeterred, he said that he had gained valuable experience by trying out.  

After high school, Jesse attended Ohio State University.  The school did not give him a scholarship, so Jesse had to work to pay his tuition as a freight elevator operator.  He worked hard in his schoolwork, his job and training for the track season and continued to improve under the guidance of quality coaches.  

Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games
Jesse worked hard and trained hard.  In 1933, when Jesse was 19 or 20, he was named a part of the American Athlete Union All-American Track Team.  That gave him the opportunity to compete in the ‘Big Ten Championship Meet.’  Somehow in his employment and training, Jesse wrenched his back.  He could hardly move, forget attempting to compete.  He had to have help moving from the car to the field and to remove his warm-up suit.  He didn’t dare warm up without risking reinjuring his back.  In spite of this back pain, Jesse broke 3 world records and tied another at the meet!  He did this in a span of 45 minutes—some say it is one of the most amazing athletic feats ever.

Jesse was well prepared to compete in the Berlin Games in 1936.  He was poised to win several events on the track.  The German team had never won a gold medal in track and field events, yet a German athlete won the first event—the shot-put.  The German crowd erupted in applause and support.  Some even shouted ‘Heil’ and the stadium roared.  Jesse and the American team had to do their absolute best to beat the well-trained Germans on their soil. 
As Jesse competed in his events, he won over the crowd with his down-to-earth humor and disarming smiles.  He became a crowd favorite, mingling with the spectators and signing autographs.  The German people loved him and began to cheer for him when he competed.  Jesse broke an Olympic record when he won the 100 meter dash—and his first gold medal.  The German crowd cheered him on.  He broke another Olympic record and won the 200 meter and Long Jump gold medals.  And he was a runner on the 4x100 relay team that took gold.  In total, Jesse won four Olympic gold medals at the Berlin Olympic games.  This made him the most successful athlete at the Olympic games. 

As the world watched, Jesse showed the German people that his race was not inferior.  Biographer Tony Gentry wrote, “The racial hatred that the Nazi Leader (Hitler) had been trying to inspire for almost a decade was negated in ten seconds by a black man who established a love relationship with the Olympic spectators.”  

The odds against Jesse Owens were steep but surmountable to a determined young man.  Surviving poor health and nutrition, disease and poverty, and racial oppression, Jesse nonetheless made himself into an Olympic Gold-winning athlete.  His positive attitude and good nature made him a fantastic role model to the world when he showed his athletic prowess during the Berlin Olympic games, remarkably set in Hitler’s Germany.  

We can do amazing things against steep odds if we work hard and keep trying.   

Read more at:
Harris, Gerald, Olympic Heroes—World Class Athletes Winning at Life, pgs. 91-100.

Photo is a reproduction from "Die Olympischen Spiel 1936" pg. 27, 1936.  U.S. Public Domain, Copyright Expired.

July 11, 2012

Helmuth Hubener Spread the Truth in Nazi Germany

In researching the Declaration of Independence and other Patriotic documents, we came across a remarkable story of courage.  A German teenage boy stood up to Hitler during World War 2!

Helmuth Hubener was a typical German youth, with the exception of his membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He participated in Boy Scouts until Hitler disbanded it.  Then he participated in the Hitler Youth, a military-style training required of all German youth.  He excelled in his training, often answering detailed questions of policy and procedure to his friends.  He even wrote an essay in school extolling Hitler's ideas. 

However, when he saw how Hitler's regime began to treat the Jewish people in Germany, his conscience began to bother him.  One night called 'the night of broken glass' (Kristallnacht), the Hitler Youth and the Gestapo (German police) broke the windows of all Jewish-owned businesses and threw their goods into the street.  Synagogues were burned to the ground.  Kristallnacht was particularly upsetting to Helmuth.  However, the final straw may have been the sign he saw on the Mormon church house declaring that Jews were not welcome to worship there anymore.  This was typical of the times in other churches, but unusual for a LDS congregation.  Helmuth had a young friend who was Jewish that attended their church services.  Helmuth was deeply disturbed to hear him crying outside the door of the chapel when they began singing the opening hymn without him.

About this same time, Helmuths' brother came home triumphant after a military battle.  He brought with him an old broken radio.  Helmuth fixed it and began listening to newscasts.  There were only three stations to which the German people were allowed to listen.  Helmuth found a more interesting one, the BBC or British Broadcasting Corporation.  BBC Broadcasters shared the latest news from the battlefront with more detail and a decidedly different point of view.  Helmuth discovered that the newscasts were so different that one had to be right and the other wrong.  He decided that the German broadcasts were full of lies and propaganda meant to pacify the German people into support of the war.  The BBC must be telling the truth.

Helmuth was breaking the law by listening to the BBC, but he persisted and invited his two closest friends to join him.  Rudy Wobbe and Karl Heinz-Snibbe were terrified about breaking the law.  Daily they heard of people being arrested and tortured for doing just that.  But Helmuth had more dangerous plans.  He wanted others to learn the truth.  And he wanted Rudy and Karl to help him get the word out.  They all agreed that the first one caught would confess to everything and not implicate the others.  This helped ease Rudy's and Karl's minds.

Because Helmuth was asked by the Branch President to write letters to the young men in the church serving in the military, Helmuth had the church typewriter in his home.  Helmuth began to type up small postcard sized notes in several copies using carbon paper, alerting people to the lies Hitler's regime had been spreading.  Helmuth brought home from work an official stamp that the Nazi's used to verify that papers were government-issued.  Using that stamp, he made the postcards look official.  Rudy and Karl took the cards and discreetly taped them to bulletin boards, streetlamps and stuffed them into mail slots and people's pockets.  When this worked and no one was caught, they started making full-page diatribes about Hitler's lies.  One's headline shouted, "Hitler is the real murderer."  Over the course of several months, Helmuth made 60 different pamphlets and hundreds of copies that were spread around his neighborhood in the city of Hamburg, Germany.

The Nazis became aware of the tracts pretty quickly.  The Gestapo thought that a college professor had written them, and they looked long and hard for clues to find the perpetrator.  Hitler could not risk having people learn what he was really doing or the war would be undermined.  The source of this information needed to be stopped, and more—they needed to make an example of him or her.  The Nazis never suspected that the author was a 16-year-old boy!  That may have helped Helmuth and his friends continue undetected a bit longer.  A quote from one tract: 
"German boys! Do you know the country without freedom, the country of terror and tyranny? Yes, you know it well, but are afraid to talk about it. They have intimidated you to such an extent that you don't dare talk for fear of reprisals. Yes you are right; it is Germany — Hitler Germany! Through their unscrupulous terror tactics against young and old, men and women, they have succeeded in making you spineless puppets to do their bidding."

Helmuth was caught after asking another friend of his to translate his most recent tract into French.  This friend took the tract to an informer who called the Gestapo and Helmuth was arrested within the hour.  In his bedroom they found the official looking stamp, the radio and the typewriter with another half-way finished pamphlet still in it. 

Helmuth confessed to the charges boldly.  He was charged with High Treason and Conspiracy against the government.  He was beaten in prison and denied bed or blankets in his cold cell.  In addition, although he did give his friends' names to the authorities due to torture, he told them he was the only one who was guilty.  He tried to protect them by taking full responsibility for the pamphlets. 

Rudy and Karl were also beaten in prison.  A trial was held in which Rudy and Karl were given lengthy prison sentences for their 'minimal' involvement.  Helmuth was sentenced to death.  The court found that Helmut's writings showed an advanced maturity and therefore he was tried as an adult.  The family lost the clemency appeal.  Hitler himself refused the appeal and ordered the sentence to stand.  Helmuth was killed a few weeks later at age 17.  

The court allowed Helmuth to write three letters to his loved ones before his death.  He wrote one to his mother, one to his grandparents and one to a family, which he knew from church.  The last one survived the war, and part of it reads, "I know that God lives and He will be the Just Judge in this matter. I look forward to seeing you in a better world!"

Today these three boys are honored as heroes in Germany as Resistance Fighters.  Streets have been named in Helmuth's honor in the city of Hamburg.  Several books and a Play have been written and a documentary has been made about Helmuth and his friends. 

Helmuth knew what was right and wrong from his study of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Weekly he attended church where he committed to follow Jesus' example and keep the commandments.  When he learned of Hitler's true activities, his conscience led him to condemn Hitler and help others to see the truth.  Risking all, he shared the truth and urged Hamburg citizens to see what was happening and stop Hitler.  In addition, he showed amazing strength of character and courage when he was caught, tried and condemned to die. 

I like to think that Helmuth remembered the story of Abinadi as he sat in his cold prison sell alone.  Perhaps he drew strength from this Book of Mormon hero who testified boldly in King Noah's court.  Surely, God strengthened and supported Helmuth as he had Abinadi. 

We can show courage and strength of character in the face of our challenges. 

July 3, 2012

The Declaration of Independence

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable 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, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor. 
Image from Wikipedia; U.S. Public Domain, Copyright expired.
Text found at http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/

John Adams' Pivotal Contributions to our American Liberty

This week there is a lot of celebrating going on as Americans celebrate our country’s birthday.  John Adams predicted celebrations in a letter he wrote on July 5th, 1776, “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.  It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.  It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”  He was right to predict such festivities.  He knew the significance of the 4th of July because he had a big part in it. 
John had been born in Boston, Massachusetts into a stalwart family.  He attended Harvard at age 16.  He graduated with a Bachelors so he could teach school, but went back to receive training as a lawyer.  He was admitted to the bar a few years later to practice law.  His first few cases gave him valuable experience in determining rights and responsibilities of citizenry in relation to the government. 
Shortly thereafter, the Stamp Act of 1765 was passed in Britain.  In effect, most paper circulated in the colonies would be taxed by placing a ‘stamp’ on it.  It would increase the cost of most common written documents, including necessary legal documents and newspapers, magazines, and the like.   The colonists were furious because it meant that they would be taxed without any say.  This was the classic argument against ‘taxation without representation.’   
John understood the law that they were operating under and argued strongly against the new tax.  Leaders urged each colony to send representatives to a ‘Congress’ in New York to discuss what to do.  They wanted the colonies to band together to fight this new threat.  Petitions were circulated and sent to the King.  Protests were staged.  Tax collectors were intimidated.  The tax was repealed a few years later, but the King insisted that he had a right to levy taxes and not allow representation in the government.  This helped bring together the colonies into cooperative unity as new taxes were levied.
With each new tax, the colonists bristled.  After the Boston Tea Party in December 1773, a new congress was formed in 1774.  John went as a delegate from Massachusetts to contribute to the new ‘Continental Congress.’  They met in 1774 and 1775 and discussed the many abuses all colonies felt at the hands of the British government.  Battles in Lexington and Concord had broken out.  Some colonies still wanted to make peace with Britain and remain under their rule, but with conditions.  Others wanted to be independent of Britain.  John wanted separation from Britain from the start and used his influence to encourage all of the other colonies to desire separation as well.  He nominated George Washington as the first General of the newly formed Continental Army.  This action was supported by all of the colonies. 
John proposed a written resolution in May of 1776 that each colony adopt new independent governments.  The Continental Congress formally approved it a few days later.  This began the process which culminated in the Declaration of Independence.  John was on the committee with Thomas Jefferson and two others charged with writing a formal Declaration of Independence from Britain.  They completed it on July 2, 1776.  The Continental Congress asked them to make 86 changes to the document, which they did.  The revised declaration was ratified by the Continental Congress on July 4th, 1776.  America had broken free of Britain, at least on paper!
George Washington led the Continental Army against British attempts to thwart the Revolutionary War.  John Adams served on the board of War and Ordnance, helping the fledgling army win the war.
John was asked so many times to help write State Constitutions that he wrote a book instead and circulated it.  He called it ‘Thoughts on Government,’ and outlined a form of government that many states adopted.  Using it, he largely wrote Massachusetts’ Constitution a few years later.  Over the years, he served as an Ambassador in France and as Vice President of the United States serving under the first President, George Washington.  When President Washington had served 2 terms, John Adams won the Presidency and served one term.
He once said, “I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in providence, for the illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth.”
John served America well.  As a lawyer, he vocalized articulately our opposition with Britain before the Revolution and called for representation with taxation.  And he co-wrote the Declaration of Independence and championed its adoption.  He wrote the Constitution of Massachusetts and set a pattern for other states to follow in their own constitutions.  As an Ambassador, he helped the Continental Congress delegates band together and agree to separate from Britain.  And he maintained relations with France at critical points in the war.   He used his knowledge of the law and his love of freedom to help America become independent and free.  
Let us all gratefully remember the contributions of great men and women to our freedom this week and always. 

Read more at:  http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/j/john_adams.html#0FylGP4plym4l7lT.99
Blyth, Myrna and Chriss Winston, How to Raise an American, 2007, Crown Publishing Group, New York, p. 186-187.