Giving Thanks On Independence Day

Because I am an American, today is my day.

It is July 4, a day for barbecue and homemade ice cream, families and picnics, politicians and fireworks. But mostly it is a day for looking back 226 years to the day men of great courage took the first steps toward forming the greatest nation in the history of the world.

It is a day for being proud.

I'm proud to be an American because I must bend my knee to no man.

I'm proud to be an American when I think of Raymond Marshall, who would have been my uncle had he lived. He gave his life for me and for all of us at Iwo Jima, winning a Silver Star for his bravery.

I'm proud to be an American when I think of Sylvester Tucker, my grandfather who fought bravely in France in World War I.

I'm proud to be an American when I think of my father, an airman of distinction who fought the Germans in Europe.

I'm proud to be an American because I can worship where I wish and follow my own conscience.

I'm proud to be an American because I can say and write what I believe without fear of a knock on my door late at night.

I'm proud to be an American because I have an opportunity to secure a good life for myself and my family if I am willing to do what it takes to get it.

I'm proud to be an American because my country took a long, hard look at itself, said it was wrong to relegate a person to second-class citizenship because of the color of his or her skin and did something about it.

I'm proud to be an American because I could raise my children as I saw fit, not as the government thought I should.

That's what today, Independence Day, is. It's a day for pride. Liberal or conservative, regardless of race, gender or creed, we are all the same on this day. We are all Americans.

There are plenty of things in this world of which no one could be proud. There are terrorists who would ruin it for us all. There are too many today who won't celebrate because they won't have enough to eat. But I'm still naive enough to believe in the American Dream, that the opportunity is there for those who dedicate themselves to finding it. If, on this day, you are gloomy about problems facing the United States, just put yourself in another part of the world. There are problems here, but who would want to live anywhere else?

I still get chill bumps when I hear the National Anthem and see the flag flapping in the breeze.

I still get chill bumps when I read of the thousands of brave men surviving the winter at Valley Forge.

I still get chill bumps when I hear Martin Luther King's "I Had A Dream" speech.

I still get chill bumps when I read the words of great men like Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson.

Few times in my life have I felt a surge of emotion like I felt when I looked for the first time at the Statue of Liberty. This country has been put to the test time and again. There have been wars and we have fought among ourselves. We have wept over the assassinations of great men, taken from us too soon. We recoiled in horror as we watched the unfolding nightmare of Sept. 11, but we answered that cowardly act with even more pride in our country and our values.

There'll be other dark days, but the sun will shine and the flag will wave again.

There will be music and dancing in our country today. It's a day for fun and fellowship. I hope people will take time to remember all those who gave so much and to be grateful.

I know I will.


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