What does the Fourth of July, Independence Day, and the Declaration of Independence, mean to you? What does it stand for? What are some of the things that come to mind, the values that come to mind? Does the American dream come to mind? What does it mean to be an American?
As I reflected on and explored the meaning of Independence Day, I have some thoughts for your consideration.
In America, we share the common belief that all people should have the freedom to live the way they want, to believe in whatever religion they choose, to speak, to vote, to own land, to work, no matter your background or status. It's about our individual rights as Americans. These freedoms created the belief in "The American Dream" and people from all over the world have desired to come to the United States to pursue it.
Per Wikipedia, "The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals (democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, as well as an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers. The American Dream is rooted in the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims that 'all men are created equal' with the right to 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.'"
For most Americans, July 4th is a time to remember and celebrate our country and the people who helped create it and keep it free. A day to celebrate our gratitude for our freedom and independence. It's a day to be patriotic, to sport your red, white and blue. A day of pride. It's a day to recognize the significance of our culture and its history, to reflect on it's meaning and the legacy that has been created and is being created.
Freedom empowers us to be the best version of ourselves possible. It affords us the opportunity, and the responsibility, to keep an open mind and an open heart, to be all inclusive, to exercise empathy and compassion, to recognize liberty and justice for all, to love, honor and respect our fellow human-kind.
Freedom means to have a choice. We have a choice each and every moment of every day. A choice as to who we want to be, how we want to live, what we want to be our legacy. With choice comes opportunity and responsibility. Each of our individual choices combine to form the collective of who we are today, what we stand for, what we value, what will be our collective legacy. Legacy is created through choices both big and small. We as Americans have the freedom to decide...what does it mean to be an American?
Freedom means we have a say and a vote. The right to free speech, the right to express your thoughts and opinions. The right to speak and to listen with empathy and compassion, with love and with kindness. The right to discuss with your fellow Americans ideas and beliefs and opinions, problems and solutions. The right to exercise your belief through your vote. This right offers us opportunity and responsibility.
I invite all of us to reflect on what Independence Day means to each of us as we celebrate the Fourth of July. What does it mean to you to be American? Does it make you proud? Is it in alignment with your values? If not, what choices can you make to bridge the gap? Don't discount the power of your freedom.