Today is July 3, 2010. The last year of the first decade of the new millennium is now half over. Our nation’s 234th birthday comes tomorrow. It is a big deal. In just a very short period of time, our country has risen from surviving a precarious balance between existence and dissolution to the world’s undisputed and sole super-power. Like any story of growth, this country has perpetrated a number of injustices along the way, but my purpose here is not to dwell on the negative, but rather focus on the inconceivable prosperity the United States has brought to not only her citizens, but also to the citizens of the world at large. Again, for all the steps in the right direction, we have stumbled back a few and there are those who might be prone to claim the best days of these United States are behind us, but I say the evidence does not support this notion. Indeed, we have seen far darker days than those we are facing now and come through even stronger and more resolved for it.
Our founding fathers would likely not recognize the nation they created as it is today; however, I doubt they would be surprised at the prosperity we have experienced. That is, no one 200 years ago could have foreseen the technological advances that this world has experienced, but it would not surprise our founders that the United States would become the engine for much or that advancement. It is, in fact, how they set it up. This nation was founded on the principle of freedom and although there have been considerable inconsistencies with that principle and the actions of our government over the years, the foresight in the structure of our constitution with the overarching principle of equality and freedom has always, eventually and ultimately risen to the top. The dance of the three branches of government with its checks and balances is at the same time complex and beautifully simple in that the power that rests with the people cannot be easily wrested because of considerable and potent oversight.
And it’s not as though some individuals and groups of individuals (referred to by our founders as “factions”) have not tried. It continues today; political parties, interest groups, labor unions and many other organized and disorganized groups have tried to impose their will on others and have done so with varying degrees of success, but the structure of our government has an innate way of weeding out what is right and what is wrong, even if the process takes some time. Corrective measures have created not a perfect union, but absolutely a “more perfect union,” one that enjoys the kind of peaceful diversity and equality that even 100 years ago was only a dream. And although there are very vocal groups that would have us a racially pure nation, those groups are spitting into the wind – we are moving more towards our founders’ words in the Preamble than even they could have foreseen.
In my 47 years as a citizen of this nation, I have lived through a number of potential crises – all of which threatened this county’s very existence, but the strength of our founding documents have bound us by a principle of freedom that, at the end of the day, we all embrace. And prior to my time, the obstacles we have overcome are written into our heritage. We are currently facing another time of trial, but I am not one to say that this nation is “heading in the wrong direction.” We are, however, experiencing growing pains and if history is any indication, we will emerge stronger and more evolved, more experienced. In 1776, no one expected this experiment in democracy to succeed. Allowing the seat of power to rest with the people was considered folly - it could not last. And in the big picture, 235 years is relatively young for a nation, but the end is nowhere close to near. This is still the United States of America and for all of our warts and scars, we are still that “shining city upon the hill,” a beacon of freedom that still epitomizes what our founders so painstakingly set out to make us.
I leave this tribute to my country with a quote from the Ronald Reagan, acknowledging the sacrifices of my son and all the other men and women of our Armed Forces who are celebrating our nation’s birthday in far away lands - protecting our freedom:
"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."