This week, our nation celebrates its 243rd birthday. Most of us will spend the day celebrating with family and friends, barbecuing and watching fireworks. But between the fireworks and cheeseburgers, it is important that we take a moment to think about what it means to be an American and pause to remember those who have fought for this country.
It is easy to take for granted the freedom that we have in this country, or the fact that we get to choose who leads our government. We are blessed to live in a country where we can speak freely and worship God without fear of persecution.
America is the greatest country in the world not because we are a superpower or because we have the largest economy, but because our country is founded on the principle that government works best when it is run by the people. Our strength is derived from our freedom. Where other countries try to stamp out those who speak out against government leaders, our country embraces political debate. It makes us stronger.
Our founding fathers created a country that has survived a civil war, two world wars, and the Great Depression. Our country not only created modern democracy, we spread it to the world.
But as the saying goes, “freedom isn’t free.” Democracy and freedom have come at an expensive price, and thousands of Americans have given their lives to secure that freedom for us.
To those who have served before, and to all those who are serving now, thank you for your service and your sacrifice to our country.
I also encourage everyone to remember that what made this country great isn’t just our ideals and our sacrifices but our firmly held belief that we are strongest when we are together, and that before we are Democrats or Republicans or liberals or conservatives we are, first and foremost, Americans.
The things that unite us are far stronger than the things that divide us. That’s why we are the “United” States of America. And as long as we remember that, then there is nothing our country cannot achieve. There’s no challenge we cannot overcome; no hardship we cannot endure.
As long as we remember this, and as long as there are still men and women willing to fight for and, if need be, die for this country, then America will still be the greatest country in the world. We will still be the land of the free and the land of opportunity.
So as you take time this week to grill those hot dogs and enjoy the fireworks, please take a few minutes to remember what it means to be an American. And take a few moments to remember those who have fought and died for the freedom that we enjoy.
Craig Ford is the owner of Hodges-Ford Insurance and the Gadsden Messenger. He represented Gadsden and Etowah County in the Alabama House of Representatives for 18 years.