Dull Predictability

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Once, long time ago, I earned my keep writing presidential speeches. In those days, I dreaded few things more than drafting orations for the Fourth of July (search). After all, what's new to say?

You describe our God-given bounty. Recount our history. Throw in a few miracles and anecdotes, dress the thing up with some grand quotes and bingo: You have a speech -- as dull and predictable as mom's proclamations about the virtues of peas. Even the inspirational authorities -- the Founders, Tocqueville, old soldiers who did die -- have become old hat.

The fundamental difficulty in writing such an address is one that's familiar to most of us: There just aren't a lot of novel ways to say, “I love you” - which is precisely what we try to say on Independence Day.

I love you: We say it to a nation still bursting with imagination and daring; one that continues to invite the world's best to come aboard -- and by best, I don't mean the wealthiest or most connected, but those who most glorify life in a free society.

I love you: We worship our warts and peculiarities, our daring and our conservatism; our humility and our ambition. We worship the kinship of countrymen who inherited a civilization that sprang out of raw wilderness.

I love you: The feeling deepens with hard times -- jets slamming into the World Trade Center and the pentagon; heroes pointing flight 93 toward the Pennsylvania soil -- and moments of glory, as Saddam's statue angled slowly to the Baghdad pavement.

It ripens because we live in a nation that not only reacts well to surprises, but thrives on manufacturing the unexpected. But... you knew that.

So two days late: Happy Independence Day!