By Minority Leader Rep. Craig Ford
Last week, in recognition of Independence Day, I wrote about freedom and democracy and how these are both a right and a privilege. Freedom and democracy are what makes this country great. They are the reason that people are willing to risk their lives to come to this country.
But freedom and democracy are not the only the reasons why this country is great.
Since the first settlers came to America, this has been the land of opportunity. We are a country where those who are willing to work hard can make their dreams come true.
We are a country that gives our people a voice through voting and free speech. We create opportunity by providing every child with a public education that gives them the skills they need to either enter the workforce or move on to the next level of higher education.
We are also a great country because of all the people who have served our country.
Some have served in the military. They give their youths. Sometimes they give their limbs. Many have given their lives. But all have sacrificed in one way or another to protect our country and our values.
In addition to those who have served in the military, there are also public servants who work in law enforcement, as firefighters, and in numerous other government roles.
Last week, 19 firefighters in Arizona gave their lives fighting a wild fire. Hundreds of others have given their lives fighting similar fires or rushing into burning or collapsing buildings to save those trapped inside. And every day, the men and women of America’s law enforcement community put their lives on the line to keep our streets safe and to bring justice to those who have broken the law and hurt others.
These public servants certainly are a reason America is great! But America is also blessed because of those who serve in other capacities. From the public employees that keep our water and sewer systems functioning to the charities that help those in need, America is great because of the American people.
Americans have shown time and again that we can rise to the occasion and be there for those in need.
After the tornados ripped through Alabama in April 2011, Americans from across the country pitched in to help us get back on our feet. After the BP oil spill in 2010, Americans donated their time and money to clean up the gulf coast and revive our tourism.
Americans were there for each other after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, and we were likewise there for those in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami. Americans have given millions of dollars around the world for disaster relief and to help causes like fighting hunger and disease.
It is not just our values, our freedom, or our democracy that have made this country great. America is great because the people of this country have made it great.
Americans have made tremendous sacrifices and given of their time, their money, and themselves to make this country and the world around us a better place. And I believe God has blessed us because of it.
I am thankful to be an American; to have had the opportunities in my life that God has given me. I am grateful that I had access to an education, and the right to speak and worship freely without fear of persecution from the government. That is why I chose to serve this country in the Army Reserves and in the Alabama National Guard when I was younger, as well as why I chose to run for public office after my dad passed away.
I am grateful for the opportunities this country has given me, and grateful for the sacrifices made by millions of Americans to make our country and the world around us a better place. This country has given so much to me. I am proud to be an American, and proud that America is the greatest country in the world.
Representative Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden. He has served in the Alabama House of Representatives since 2000. In 2010, Representative Ford was elected House Minority Leader by the House Democratic Caucus. He was re-elected Minority Leader in 2012.