“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, … a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

When we see these opening words of the Declaration of Independence, it can be easy to skim over them in the rush to get to the really exciting part about equality, unalienable rights, and life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Yet, if we do this, we miss something important.

These opening lines talk about “one people … declar[ing] the causes which impel them to the separation.” But if you look at who signed the declaration, it wasn’t an anonymous group, but 56 individual men who actually declared these causes and thus put their lives on the line.

Signing the Declaration wasn’t like signing a simple ballot petition in our country today. It was instead declaring to England-the greatest military power in the world at the time-intentions that would be treated as treason should the fight for independence fail.

These men put their honor, fortunes, and lives on the line for the good of their country.

Today, 234 years after the Declaration was signed, where does this leave us?

Free, for one thing. The sacrifices they made so long ago are still bearing fruit in the lives of all Americans today. For this we should be ever grateful.

However, all is not as it should be. The United States is now ranked only “mostly free” in the 2010 Index of Economic Freedom from the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. Seven countries, including Canada, now rank as Free ahead of us. Our health care system is on the verge of a complete federal takeover-and collapse. And excessive spending and regulation seem to be driving our economy towards years of economic malaise.

We are seeing these impacts first hand in Texas. The mandates of ObamaCare may force many changes to our system unimaginable only six months ago, not to mention billions of dollars of new spending. These costs, along with the impact of federal stimulus spending and the recession, have us facing a budget shortfall next biennium of as much as $18 billion.

We all have a lot of work to do.

We’ve wasted no time in getting started at the Foundation. Two of the leading architects of Texas’ successful 2003 effort to close a $10 billion budget gap without increased taxes-former state representatives Talmadge Heflin and Arlene Wohlgemuth-are now heading up our unprecedented budget project. Over the next few months, our entire policy team will put their regular research work on hold in order to scour the budget of every single state agency looking for ways to save taxpayers money.

We also recently launched our Center for Tenth Amendment Studies led by former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Scott Brister. They are looking for ways where Texas can just say “No” to the federal government-its money and the strings that come attached to it.

All of this comes on the heels of our national outreach efforts on ObamaCare, climate change legislation, and federal stimulus spending.

We are fortunate to live in a country where pledging our lives to liberty doesn’t involve the level of sacrifice it once did here-and still does in too many countries around the globe. That is all the more reason we should all redouble our efforts in the name of liberty.

Thank you for joining us in the fight for freedom.