We love America. Why? Because America stands for something. That something is something true. That something is Independence.
Independence makes us American.
In other places around the world people love their country just because they come from there. They love their country because they and their parents and their parents’ parents have always lived in the same spot. No ideas hold up their way of life. In America we have the powerful idea of Independence. It counts for everything.
It counts for everything today. To us. And to millions of would-be Americans who have the bad luck to be from someplace else but have heard tell of America. For others life is not like it is for us because the special miracle of freedom happened here, first, in an uncommon way.
On July 4, 1776—on a sweltering Philadelphia day—on a piece of parchment—in iron gall ink—56 Americans put into plain words all the good reasons America had to come alive in the world.
Those 56 steely souls listed in detail the evil overreaches of the King. To these evils they said: No more.
Those 56 signed the Declaration of Independence. They signed their names and sealed their fates.
That fateful day we celebrate with family cook-outs, festive keggers, and fireworks shows. We have every reason to celebrate it. It marks the jubilee of freedom.
But we must remember that the first 56 had as many good reasons to curse the future as they did to cast off the past. In order to make the words they wrote come true, they would have to sacrifice other true things. The ease of peace. The comforts of prosperity. The gifts of good lives.
Sacrifice they did. They traded in their inks and pens for gunpowder and rifles. The old and young alike joined ranks to go to war. Women and children did their equally perilous parts to aid the effort to make America independent.
During those hard years of bloody battle, the odds were better than even that America would fail in its mission. Independence could have stayed on that piece of parchment and crumpled just as easily.
But we did not crumple. We unleashed. We did not fail our mission. We succeeded. We did not lose. We won. We did not fall on our knees. We stood on our feet. We earned independence.
Every day since then America has faced its share of new enemies. Inside and out. Every time since then we have won. We have never gone back on the words of those first 56.
That’s what we celebrate on the Fourth of July, Independence Day. We celebrate the first taste of freedom and recommit ourselves to a future of freedom just as sweet.