July 4th Holiday 2012: Ask What You Can Do for Your Country

I’m really looking forward to July 4: a weekday when my only obligations will be to my friends and our backyard. It’s going to be great.

But it’s easy to get caught up in all of the celebration (beer, burgers, and fireworks) and forget about what we are actually celebrating — our nation’s birth. Many of us will inevitably be caught up in a few renditions of our National Anthem, and maybe a little bit of “God Bless America” for good measure. It's important to celebrate the country that is our home, and that still represents freedom and liberty to large swaths of our world. 

It’s important to focus on our nation’s foundation because it gives us a great perspective. Just see how far we’ve come in the past 236 years. We have made great strides: Women can now vote in every state, for example. When we think about how far we’ve come and all that generations of great Americans before us have accomplished, we cannot sit complacently at our grills and on our outdoor patio furniture.

We must ask ourselves, as Americans have on many occasions, what can we do better? America is a great country, but that has never meant that we cannot be greater, that we cannot strive for better.

A cursory glance at indexes and rankings on issues like infant mortality, literacy, student test scores, etc. shows that we still have plenty of work to do. If the founding fathers had sat around and written a Declaration of Independence, but never sent it to England, nothing would have changed. They articulated a vision for a better future and then made it happen. They took the burden upon their own shoulders and did it.

Likewise, we, as Americans, cannot sit on our hands and discuss issues like health care and education, and then quietly retreat back to our cubicles on Thursday, July 5. This fourth of July should be a call to action: How can each of us improve our community and our country? We owe it to ourselves, to our predecessors, and most of all to those who will be called Americans long after we are gone.

Should America be blessed with another magnificent 236 years, do we really want future generations sitting around on their patio furniture and thinking: Wow, we really haven’t come very far at all in the past two centuries, have we?