The summer after our wedding, Dustin and I took a short trip to Washington, DC for the 4th of July. We got into the city early to get a good seat for the parade, landing a spot on the steps of the National Archives – a great spot! – where we sat for a very. long. time. After the parade, we had some time to kill before we needed to get in place for the fireworks show, so we spent the afternoon walking through the Smithsonians. Then we took our spot on the National Mall and waited for dark for the show to begin.
During the fireworks, speakers played patriotic music. Imagine standing between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, listening to songs like “America the Beautiful” and watching fireworks pop over head. I was moved to tears; it was so beautiful! We enjoyed our trip so much, we deciding to make it a tradition to take a 4th of July trip each year to catch the country’s best fireworks shows.
I get oddly emotional this time of year, which can be confusing because I am not typically very patriotic. I don’t fall on either side of the political spectrum. I criticize conservatives’ tight-gripped allegiance to the constitution and liberals’ ignorant belief that there really must be such thing as a free lunch. I support giving up personal rights like privacy for the betterment of the whole. I would encourage immigration. It’s safe to say I really don’t make a whole lot of sense to most people.
So, as I started to feel all the feels this year as the 4th was approaching, I asked myself, “why?!” Why do you love this country?
It’s easy for our minds to go to the military as we think about what makes our nation great. I wholeheartedly appreciate their sacrifice and service as they have fought for our safety and freedoms since the Revolutionary War, but I think the greatness of our nation far exceeds the work they’ve accomplished. Knowing still, we couldn’t have furthered the American cause without their work!
In considering our greatness, we easily recall these iconic revolutionary times in our history – independence, the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, space exploration, civil rights. These movements have given us a foundation to be proud of. It has established a known (though albeit sometimes not shown) equality of the people who call this place home. And with this foundation, the amazing people of this country have answered the American call to greatness.
America is great because we have an attitude of independence. Heck, we wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t! We believe we are enough to make it happen. We are independent thinkers, thinking outside the box and never settling for status quo. There is an expectation of progress in every aspect of American living. Within our homes, we seek to provide better for our children than our parents did for us. We seek to attain more education than our previous generation. Within our business offices, the standard is not to be stagnant, but to increase sales or production, and further decrease expenses. We set goals for higher graduation rates in our schools, and higher employment rates nationwide. Our medical field exists to lengthen the life expectancy, and reduce mortality rates caused by preventable diseases. We create technology that makes life more efficient, convenient,and seriously more fun.
American industrialist Henry Ford invented the assembly line that increased production of automobiles. His innovative invention is used every day, every where. Stay at home moms employ his methodology plating lunches for the family. You can see this process at work in the security line at the airport. Offices gather around the conference table folding letters, stuffing envelopes, and putting postage on mail outs. His idea has saved our country (and more!) immeasurable time and money.
Thomas Edison was a great American inventor, accredited with over 1000 patents. The applications of his inventions have provided us with electric power, motion pictures, sound recording, and the advancement of mass-communication.
And yet our rich history of great inventors is nowhere near finished! Just in my short 28 years of life, many many inventions have made our lives better. Vaccines for Hepatitis A and Lyme Disease. Increased life expectancy for HIV positive persons. Robotic surgery! The Hubble Space Telescope. UV Water purifier. Laptop computers. The internet… WIRELESS internet. GOOGLE. Could you live without Google?!
And it’s not just inventions that change lives! Research, information, campaigns, activism, awareness, participation, generosity… all of these have impacted the way we think and live.
Have you ever been to the Chick-fil-A drive-thru on a Friday? If so, chances are someone ahead of you paid for your meal. I think this illustrates what it means to be American.
You get this free meal that you didn’t necessarily ask for, or earn. And while there is no obligation to pay for the person behind you, it just kind of happens. For a while, until someone doesn’t.
We live each day benefiting from the great gifts that have been passed on to us through the history of this country. And still, while we are not obligated to pay it back, we press on. We strive to leave something behind for those that come next, that they might offer some sort of legacy as well.
Sometimes, you get caught at the Chick-fil-A line with only a few dollars to buy your one chicken sandwich and someone pays for yours. You can’t afford the car behind yours so you accept your free sandwich and remember their generosity. No worries, friend. It happens. But what makes you truly American is that when you do have that opportunity to buy someone’s meal, you return to Chick-fil-A proud to be able to gift someone as you had been gifted.
When I think about the greatness of our country, I think about those people. The ones that have stumbled upon some great information and implemented it in a way that has changed lives. The people that devoted their life’s work to making this a better place. The people who spoke up for what they believed, empowering others to do the same. The people who left something behind that inspired us to do the same.
This Fourth of July, I’m raising my can of good ole’ American Coca-Cola to all the people.
To those who have made a difference….
The Rosa Parks. The FDRs. The Abraham Lincolns. The Martin Luther Kings. The Henry Fords. The Condoleezza Rices. The Ronald Reagans. The Harriet Tubmans. The Alice Pauls. The Johnathan Edwards. The Thurgood Marshalls. The Sam Waltons. The Clara Bartons. The Bill Gates.The Henry Clays. The Walt Disneys. The Wright Brothers. The Andrew Carnegies.
And those who will continue to make a difference….
The soldiers. The Presidents. The police. The inventors. The social workers. The construction workers. The engineers. The doctors. The medical researchers. The CEOs. The secretaries. The farmers. The authors. The preachers. The lawyers. The judges. The lobbyists. The congressmen. The city council. The PTAs. The nurses. The explorers. The musicians.
The summer after we ventured to Washington, DC, we spent our Fourth of July in Seattle for another wonderful Fireworks show. That was the last trip before we had to pause our tradition for summers spent raising babies. This year, we finally braved taking them to a public fireworks show locally to practice for picking up our tradition next year. Not sure where we’ll venture to in 365 days, but looking forward to continuing to celebrate the greatness of America for hopefully many, many more years!
Until the end, do something that matters!