As a boy, I had a great appreciation for the Fourth of July. It was the day I was allowed to run barefoot in the yard while Dad put hamburgers on the charcoal grill – mine with extra cheese. It was the day Mom would let me have not one, but two, popsicles. It was the day that smelled like sunscreen, and chlorine, and balmy summer air. It was the day my sister and I brought out the mason jars with holes poked carefully in the lids so we could have a “home” for the lightning bugs we would catch that night.
The Fourth of July was the perfect summer holiday.
Today, I still look forward to the Fourth of July. The day brings back floods of memories from the days of extra popsicles and lightening bugs, and I still appreciate the time with my family spent together gathered around in our backyard. But something happened somewhere between my childhood and today, where my appreciation for the day became rooted in something much deeper. Each year, I realize more and more that this country I have been born into and have been raised in is special. America is truly special.
235 years ago, our Founding Fathers had a vision for a nation free from the tyranny of England. They had no reasonable expectation of success and they were unsure of what the new world would look like – they only had a dream. And out of that dream - despite the overwhelming chance of failure, of personal ruin, of death - they built a revolution. They built America.
Since that point, American greatness has come from an exceptional combination of faith, family, dreams, the empowerment of individual citizens, respect for the rule of law, and dedication to a well-guarded peace. We were created one nation under God, and we still are one nation under God. We were created on the bedrock of liberty and freedom, and we still stand on that bedrock of liberty and freedom. To this day, no other nation in the world has matched the level of America’s greatness. Our nation didn’t just happen. Our principles are different from the rest of the world.
Today, there are those that would say that America is not great. There are those that believe our nation is no different from other nations around us. There are those that are willing to allow our nation to fall to the same fate as countries like Greece. There are those that would express regret for America’s success. These notions are frightening, because the moment we begin to apologize for America is the moment we begin to spread roots that choke out any seeds of success for our nation. The moment we stop believing that our nation is special is the moment we will cease to be special.
I refuse to buy into the idea that America is mediocre or that she is like any other nation in the world. America is a nation that was born to be extraordinary. The American experiment is worth preserving. Our freedoms are exceptional. And to boast about these freedoms is not only allowable, it is necessary.
I believe America’s greatest days are ahead of us, but we must realize that the direction of our nation's future lies within our own ability to cling to the uniqueness of America. That is what the Fourth of July is. It is a reminder that the freedoms we enjoy as Americans should not just be acknowledged – they should be celebrated.
So this weekend, as you give your child or grandchild that extra popsicle, gather with friends and family at the beach or around the grill, or sit with your loved ones on the old quilted blanket watching the glittering display of fireworks go off in the sky, remember that you are a part of something exceptional. And that exceptionalism is worth celebrating.