Archive for Thursday, July 3, 2008

Appreciation a ‘must do’ on holiday

July 3, 2008

What are your plans for the Fourth of July weekend? There certainly are a variety of options, ranging from community events to family picnics. For most, this will be a three-day weekend that can offer a mini-vacation. In general it will be a time to be outside, enjoying the warm weather, playing sports and watching some fireworks.

May I suggest one additional "must do" for the Fourth of July weekend? How about taking some time to appreciate how lucky we are to be living in the United States of America? We could find a few moments to remember the terrific sacrifices it took to give us our country. We live in the greatest nation in the history of the world. Unfortunately, we tend to forget the many-faceted sacrifices it took to get us where we are.

Initially, it is hard to imagine the courage that it took to declare independence from England. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were men of great courage and were willing to make personal sacrifices to start the movement toward a new, radical and free nation.

No, the founders couldn't agree among themselves about too much other than they wanted to throw off the yoke of England. They muddled through a lengthy war and depended on the dedication of an army they didn't support financially. Yet, against huge odds the Continental Army, with the aid of France, defeated the British.

Military victory wasn't enough, however. The real fight started as they began to try to mold 13 independent colonies into the United States. As has always been the case, we have had wonderful leadership, and George Washington was the perfect person to lead this new, experimental country.

One thing was certain: The new nation didn't want a monarchy. At that time, we were the only independent country in the world that didn't have a king or queen, and our fledgling government was generally thought of as an "experiment." Most in Europe thought the common person was totally unable to govern. They felt that it wouldn't be long before the U.S. asked to return to British rule.

Even in the USA, there was a concern about government and checks and balances. At that time, members of the House of Representatives were elected directly. The state legislature elected senators. The convoluted electoral college was set in place to ensure that a qualified person would be elected president.

Somehow, the United States survived and through hard work devised the best form of government ever known. But organizing the government wasn't the only problem. The fledgling nation expanded its territory and only the most heroic moved west. The early settlers were a breed apart dedicated, fearless and hardy. Yes, they made some mistakes, but they slowly shaped a nation out of the wilderness.

We survived a Civil War and, again, were able to come together as United States. Fortunately, men of good will worked out a peace which ensured our continued growth as a country.

It wasn't long until the United States was a beacon to the world and those suffering in Europe flocked to our shores. The new immigrants faced a hard life. They had to adjust to a new nation and learn new ways. Many arrived in abject poverty and had to struggle to get an economic foothold. As has always been the case, those who worked hard survived and prospered.

Like most Americans, I come from a mixed European background. I am proud that my English, Scotch, German and Swiss forbearers took the challenge of leaving Europe and coming to a new and sometimes hostile land. My wife's German-Russian ancestors arrived in the Midwest with no money and faced a language barrier. Through hard work, they were able to establish themselves in central Kansas. We are a nation of many heritages and that is one of our strengths.

Those who have come before have worked hard to give us freedom and a strong economy. Yes, there have been mistakes made by our nation. Yet we have always tried to do the right thing and we have sacrificed for the betterment of those around the world.

Yes, I am proud to be an American. I am proud of those who gave their lives to win and maintain our freedom. Certainly on the Fourth of July weekend, I am going to take time to think about their sacrifices and what it took to make our great nation.

I sincerely hope that you have a great weekend. Remember, if you shoot fireworks, please follow all the safety rules and use common sense. About all that I can add is please have a safe and happy Fourth of July weekend.

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