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Courage in uncertain times fueled founding fathers’ drive to independence

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- The Air Force is no stranger to uncertainty, change and challenge. The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review outlines four priorities for the Department of Defense: prevail in today's wars, prevent and deter conflict, prepare to defeat adversaries and succeed in a wide range of contingencies, and preserve and enhance the all volunteer force. All of this must be accomplished with level to diminishing resources.

Uncertainty is uncomfortable. As I weigh the uncertainties ahead, it occurs to me that our challenges are not so different from those faced by the founders of this nation 234 years ago this July Fourth.

In putting their signatures to the Declaration of Independence, our forefathers literally put their lives on the line. Reputedly, Benjamin Franklin cautioned, "We must all hang together, or surely we will all hang separately." And so all those present signed, pledging "our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor" to an uncertain fate.

Signing the Declaration was courageous, but when I imagine myself as a witness to the signing, it seems an incredibly audacious act. Local militias had skirmished with the British army, a highly trained fighting force, but the colonies did not even have an army worthy of the name.

Our world today is even more complex, but the principles the first American patriots endorsed symbolically with their own blood - the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - have sustained us as a nation through many daunting uncertainties and fearful challenges. I like to think of our annual observance of Independence Day as a vow that we will display the same fortitude as the founders in confronting our own uncertainties, and that we will do all we can to make sure those principles they put forward sustain us, and endure.