At the end of the day, after the kids have settled down, the hamburgers have all gone cold and the beer becomes scarce and maybe even a little warm, the fireworks are nice. Maybe you’re able to see them from your backyard, or maybe you’ve gathered the cousins and grandparents and schoolfriends and spread out on a blanket or just the damp cool of the evening grass. Either way, as you look at your children and smile at their mouths agape, the reflection of red, white and blue in their eyes, the way they jump at the loud ones, the fireworks are definitely nice.
Sometimes, however, I think we’ve departed from the true nature and history and meaning of American independence on Independence Day. More and more, it has become about the bottle rockets, the beer kegs, the barbecues and the blockbusters. And that’s okay. It’s also become about gathering family, recharging batteries, and reveling in the smiles, squeals and carefree screams of nieces and nephews and daughters and sons. And, personally, I like a good cheeseburger as much as the next guy.
Just as we gather the young ones in front of the fireplace at Christmas for a reading of ‘Twas the Night, perhaps this year we can bring together our families and our children and tell them about the story of our independence, the meaning of freedom, the grand experiment that is America.
We can talk to them about how a group of mere men gathered in Philadelphia to break free of English rule and advance an idea which would build upon the antithesis of tyranny in hopes to avoid a return to that from which our founders fled. We can explain how the founding of this nation was a leap of faith, how impassioned fledgling Americans drove off the premier fighting force in the world to secure our sovereignty. From The Shot Heard ‘Round the World to surrender at Yorktown, America and Americans surpassed the longest of odds from the very start.
We can talk to them about how America has since delivered freedom across the globe, how hundreds of thousands of brave men from a nation not yet two hundred years old lost their lives freeing Europe from the clutches of evil, and how the steely resolve of America’s people and strong leadership on all levels eventually led to the downfall of Communism many years after that.
The history of America’s independence is littered with stories captivating enough to assuage even the shortest of juvenile attention spans. From drinking and dumping tea into Boston Harbor to defying a king in Philadelphia to Washington wintering at Valley Forge to expanding our nation from sea to shining sea to saving the world–twice!–in the first half of the last century, America was, is and continues to be the last, best hope for the people and nations of our world.
Because of America, millions without food have eaten, diseases have been cured, hundreds of thousands have been liberated from concentration camps, death camps and tyrannical dictatorships. What started as an idea, as a quill to parchment in Philadelphia during the summer of 1776 has blossomed, 232 years later, into the greatest, most prosperous, most generous nation in the history of the world.
So today, as you lean back in your easy chair, as you mediate family squabbles and fill up on food and love, remember what it means to be an American and why America is what she is. And after the world darkens and you look upon your children as they marvel at the reds, whites and blues in the sky above, think of how lucky each and every one of us is to wake up every day in this country.
It all started, 232 years ago today. Men defied a king. They took a chance, knowing only what they didn’t want their new country to be or to become. Just off Market Street, on a hot summer day, a nation was born. The greatest our world has ever known.
Happy Birthday, America.