Your Life Belongs to You is a book for children that tells the story of the birth of the United States. It begins with Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America and shows how it led to the Age of Exploration which led to world-wide colonization, then to Jamestown Colony, and eventually the establishment of our country.
I want you to look at the birth of a miracle: the United States of America. If it is ever proper for men to kneel, we should kneel when we read the Declaration of Independence. The concept of individual rights is so prodigious a feat of political thinking that few men grasp it fully –and two hundred years have not been enough for other countries to understand it. –AYN RAND
Why I Love America
I am a Canadian who loves America. The America I love is the nation created by its Founders: from the struggle against Britain, starting in 1750 to the defeat of the British army in 1789. The American struggle for rights was motivated by the creation of the single greatest political document in human history—the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
The basis for this document was the conviction that human beings have the power of reason to guide their lives and that they must deal with each other free from force: by voluntary trade and mutual agreement, rather than coercion. America was the first nation founded on the right of individuals to their own lives.
In 1776, they declared these rights and when the British tried to stop them, the Americans publicly declared their cause to the world and went to war to protect themselves from tyranny. In 1783 they won that war, and in 1789 they established a government to protect every person’s moral right to life, liberty and the pursuit of personal happiness. This is why America became the freest and most prosperous country in the world—they declared that their lives belonged to them, not to the British and, for the first time in history, not to their own government. This, in America, is what freedom means.
In 1992, I gave a talk in Williamsburg, Virginia on the founding of America. Called “This Hallowed Ground,” the talk described this struggle and the meaning of America’s history. Little did I know that twenty-two years later, Charlotte Cushman’s book, Your Life Belongs to You, would be a result.
When I first heard about this book I was extremely skeptical. Telling children about American history is one thing, but conveying the significance of that history quite another. I didn’t think it could be done.
But Your Life Belongs to You takes the essentials of America’s story and explains why the idea of individual rights was unique in history and is the moral base of America. The Declaration of Independence was a ground breaking document. Most people, and sadly most Americans, do not comprehend the importance of living one’s own life independent of some ruler nor that it was a completely new idea in 1776.
This is a book that needs to be spread far and wide across the America I love and that Americans should love. It needs to be read to children, and when they are old enough, they need to read it themselves. And yes, even adults need to read it. Americans need to understand the magnitude of the Founding Fathers’ accomplishment because your life does, indeed, belong to you.
by John Ridpath
John Ridpath was professor of economics and intellectual history at York University in Toronto, Canada. Over the span of his career he lectured and wrote about the history of ideas and their impact on social change, with special reference to the ideas influencing the Founding Fathers and early American history.