Not your grandfather's Founding Fathers

It sounded preposterous to much of the world on that July 4 in 1776 that somehow a tiny colony long on big ideas and short on such things as an army, money or even much of a government intended to break away from the richest and most powerful nation in the world.

The men who signed that Declaration of Independence knew exactly how long the odds were, and knew they would be hanged if they failed - but they signed it, pledging "their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor."

John Hancock signed his name large - he wanted the British to make no mistake about who he was.

I thought about that at a recent CBS News Town Hall on the economy when I asked Tom Coburn, a very conservative Republican Senator from Oklahoma, why Congress can't get anything done anymore. Because, he said:

"We're more interested in political careers than we are interested in fixing the very real and urgent problems in front of our country. The senate has - this is the lowest level of votes the senate has had in my seven years and the lowest level of votes in 25 years.

"And the reason we're not voting is people don't want to take a vote because they might have to defend it.

So rather than come up here and do the job and have the courage and the honor to go out and defend your votes, what we do is we just don't vote," Coburn said.

What a contrast to the attitude of the founders who put their lives on the line for what they believed.

Not the usual July 4 message but maybe worth hearing - just to remind us how we used to be.

  • Bob Schieffer On Twitter»

    Bob Schieffer is CBS News' chief Washington correspondent and anchor of Face the Nation.

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