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The United States of America is celebrating its 246 birthday on July 4th. Since our nation’s founding, we’ve contended with significant challenges and conflicts. From the early debates about the size and scope of the federal government, to the civil war, through the civil rights movement, we’ve consistently worked to build a “more perfect union.” The journey has been violent at times, and so many have sacrificed to make us the home of the brave and the land of the free.
Being a first generation American, I always tell folks that when your family has not just studied history, but lived it, you have a unique appreciation for freedom and liberty. My parents lived through World War II and then communism, so they instilled in my sisters and myself a deep respect for this country and an understanding that any government that’s big enough to give you everything, is big enough to take it all away. Which is why I sometimes pinch myself when I think a public school kid, who grew up speaking Serbo-Croatian, can be the state’s chief law enforcement officer and argue cases at the United States Supreme Court against the President of the United States. Only in America!
But immigrants who’ve come to the United States over the past two centuries have similar tales of success within one generation. Whether they’re firefighters, school teachers, doctors, or even in politics, the United States is a place where all of us have a chance at success, no matter who we are or where we come from.
This reality was not achieved by accident, but was carefully crafted by our Founding Fathers and preserved through their establishment of our Constitution and insistence on the rule of law. The Framers’ wisdom in ordaining these is not a trivial matter. The old Soviet Union and other third-world dictatorships around the world had constitutions with elements similar to the United States’, but those documents proved to be meaningless in short order. America has stood the test of time because our Constitution is more than words on paper. It is at the heart of who we are as Americans.
Even so, our nation’s survival hasn’t always been perfect or easy. You might call it a miracle that we made it past the first 50 years – and that we continue to stand in 2022. Because of our greatness we are a target for many interests within our borders and around the world. These people do not understand the morality of a Constitutional Republic, the power of the free market or the world-leading innovation that personal freedom and opportunity can cultivate. Instead, they only have eyes for our power, wealth and success and they are committed to commandeering them for their own political purposes. Our freedoms are, as President Reagan once said, always a “generation away from extinction.”
Yet by God’s grace and our faith, we are still standing, still a beacon of hope for millions, and still a “shining city on the top of the hill.” We may have seemingly irreconcilable differences between us and great challenges to overcome, but history has taught us how to prevail, and that we must.
I wish everyone a Happy Independence Day! As we enjoy our family, fun and fireworks, perhaps we can also reflect on how being citizens of the greatest country in the world comes with real responsibility. We have a charge from the ones who have gone before us, to honor our Constitution; to preserve the rule of law; and to ensure the blessings of liberty for those yet to come.