Reflections on the Fourth of July

It’s a great day to be an American. Now that this Fourth of July weekend has wound down, I realize that I appreciate it particularly this year because I spent last year’s out of the country while I was on vacation visiting family. And while I cherished the wonderful time I had in Malaysia with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, I recognized more than ever while I was abroad how much I pride and love I have for my country. It’s like army vet Joseph A. Rehyansky wrote this weekend: “One does not have to travel very far from our county or stay away very long, although my wife and I have both done so, to know how precious is what we have got.”

This time last year, I remember being acutely aware of the blessing of freedom that I enjoyed – one that was paid for by blood and sacrifice. And as my cousins and I teased each other about whose home country was “best” (I have family from all over the world), I wondered if they really understood the meaning of patriotism in the way that Americans do. Did they know what it meant to appreciate a nation whose foundation was built upon principles and values that were held so strongly that its people were willing to give up their lives and fortunes in order to defend them? Did they fully know the worth of liberty, granted first by God and then preserved by fellow patriots?

I found it interesting during my stay in Malaysia and Singapore how often the younger generation in these countries touted being “westernized” or “Americanized,” referring mostly to the fact that they had kept up with the latest fashions, movies, and whatever else pop culture has to offer. Yet to me, this has never defined what it is to be “American,” and I realized then how grateful I was that it meant so much more.

As beautiful as my family members’ homelands may be, or as lavish their lifestyles (many of them are very wealthy), I wouldn’t trade my American heritage for a thing. The pride I have in knowing the rich history of my country, as well as the sense of honor, integrity, and humility and I learned from this knowledge, are all values I hold as priceless. And no other nation could compare.

As the great Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North put it this Friday,

We’re the only nation on the planet with tens of thousands of its sons and daughters who volunteer to don a uniform and go into harm’s way around globe. They go not for gold or colonial conquest or “ethnic cleansing” — but to offer others the hope of freedom — the kind we celebrate on Independence Day.

There isn’t another nation in the world like the U.S., and now that the parades and fireworks have come to an end, I hope Americans’ gratitude doesn’t. We can’t forget what a privilege it is to have our rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness protected, or to play a part what Thomas Jefferson knew to be “the last, best hope of mankind.” It’s a privilege that should never be taken lightly, which Jefferson well understood.

I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We Shall not. (Letter from Thomas Jefferson to his wife Abigail; July 3, 1776)

Thankfully, over two hundred years later, generations of selfless and dutiful Americans have lived out Jefferson’s prediction that the “end is more than worth all the means.” But it is precisely those means that give our “end” so much worth.

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