One cannot write about the July 4th holiday in 2017 without acknowledging a country divided. The rhetoric is more than heated; it is boiling. Policy debates melt down into accusations of the most dire circumstances imaginable. The fear quotient is hyped up on all sides; death threats and acts of violence are offered readily, in some cases amongst members of the same political party. A calmer period seems far off, yet confrontational political differences are not new in this country.

From the beginning, political rhetoric was hot and occasionally devolved into destructive action.

The now nearly sainted John Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which repressed domestic protest, punished writings and utterances against the government, established powers to deport foreigners and made it more difficult for immigrants to vote. Disagreements over basic human rights as well as governance and policy led the country into a bloody Civil War six decades later.

Fortunately, we are not at that point yet.

Perhaps, this is a good time to pause and consider the words that serve as the foundation of our country. That is the goal of the HBO special, The Words That Built This Country, a documentary written and directed by Alexandra Pelosi that premiers July 4 at 7 p.m. Even if you are not an HBO subscriber there are other opportunities to see the documentary including on

Over a period of 45 minutes the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights will be read by presidents, vice presidents, supreme court justices, cabinet secretaries, senators, congress members, actors, journalists and school children. All six living presidents and all six living vice presidents took part. You can find a list of all the participants on this HBO release here.

I listened to Alexandra Pelosi—yes, Nancy Pelosi’s daughter—on Doug McIntrye’s KABC LA radio show promoting her film. She said that many people argue controversial issues without understanding what the constitution says about a subject. She says her hope is to bring some basic understanding to a world in which cable news seems to indicate Americans are at war with each other.

Perhaps, calming the over-the-top rhetoric is too lofty a hope in these times. But, words matter—especially the foundational words that built a great country. One thing is certain: all Americans can use a refresher course in what is contained in the country’s essential documents.

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Happy July 4th to all.

Fox and Hounds will resume publication on July 5.