On the Fourth of July, Americans will celebrate the birth of this great nation. Kids will ride in small town parades, their bikes festooned with red, white and blue bunting. Old Glory will fly from porches and along sidewalks. Neighbors will come together to grill hot dogs in their back lawns, or in city parks. Fireworks will light up the spacious skies as families stretch out on blankets to watch the dazzling displays.
People from all walks of life and speaking more than 300 different languages will join in the festivities. In these rancorous times, it is a welcome opportunity to remember why this country has been for more than two hundred years a beacon of hope and opportunity, truly, as President Reagan said, “a shining city on a hill where all things are possible.”
What exactly is possible? It is possible to arrive in this country broke and jobless, and end up sending your kids to medical school, as a taxi driver I recently met had done. He has been in the U.S. for thirty years and has worked hard, often carrying two jobs at once, so that his children would flourish. And they have.
It is possible to grow up poor and in a bad neighborhood but become a celebrated neurosurgeon and then top government official, as Ben Carson did. It is possible to become a war hero, like American Sniper Chris Kyle, and spend your last days helping other vets deal with PTSD. It is possible to be abandoned by a single mom, raised in an orphanage and go on to head one of America’s greatest companies, as a 98-year-old friend did.
These are not just exceptional people. They are people who took advantage of the opportunities presented by an exceptional nation. A nation that is proud, and rightly so. President Reagan tapped into that pride more effectively than any other leader in modern times. President Trump has also appealed to our love of country, an affection often derided by his political opponents.
Some on the left view patriotism as a political stunt and reverence for our flag a symptom of unsophistication. In recent years, the condescension of those who depict Trump voters as “deplorables” or who dismiss millions who “cling to guns or religion” has offended a large swath of the country. Those on the right have countered by supporting a president whose trademark combativeness would never have succeeded in gentler times.
The country is indeed divided today. The political left looks at the United States as a nation so flawed that it requires fundamental change, while those on the right consider the bones of the country – its Constitution, for instance -- as close to perfection as any system can be. Democrats want the government to play a bigger role in solving our myriad problems, while Republicans think that individuals operating through free markets can produce superior results.
We do have challenges. We need to fix those things that are not working, like our approach to immigration and our health care system. But Americans should have faith: we will resolve these problems, as we always have. Throughout our history, the government apparatus that our founders put in place has allowed this nation to flourish like no other. To flourish while respecting the rights and liberties of the individual, and while observing the rule of law, both of which are essential to our success. The people elected to run the country are mere mortals, but overall they respond to the will of the nation and put things right when we tend to go astray.
The pride that most of us take in our country stems from the conviction that Americans are a generous and fair-minded people. We welcome the achievements and successes of those who work hard and play by the rules. We believe the United States should be strong, militarily and economically, since it is only through strength that we can provide our citizens with security and opportunity. Most important, it is through that strength that we can guarantee our freedom.
That freedom and our admiration for individualism have led to a breathtaking history of creativity and entrepreneurship. Our pop culture is the envy of the world, as are our innovative industries. We do not steal new inventions and ideas; we create them.
Americans must take joy in our accomplishments on the Fourth of July. We must also celebrate the winds of optimism blowing across our fruited plains and purple mountains majesty, lifting spirits as the economy bounds forward. President Trump has wisely withdrawn the heavy hand of government, reviving America’s spirits.
At the same time, we must shoulder our responsibilities to protect and support our own and to show the world what can be achieved by a free and ambitious people.
Reagan said it best: “We cannot escape our destiny, nor should we try to do so. The leadership of the free world was thrust upon us two centuries ago in that little hall of Philadelphia. In the days following World War II, when the economic strength and power of America was all that stood between the world and the return to the dark ages, Pope Pius XII said, 'The American people have a great genius for splendid and unselfish actions. Into the hands of America God has placed the destinies of an afflicted mankind.
We are indeed, and we are today, the last best hope of man on earth."