In our country, we have been raised to believe that being a strong independent nation is just the beginning of our role in the world. We fought 5 wars in the 20th Century and 2 so far in the 21st as our way of defending the notion of a free and independent world.
The July 4th event in 1776 was in fact our way of telling the British that it was our intention to end our dependence as a colony, take what we learned from the mother country about a free people and lead the democratic experiment in America.
Over the 244 years of our independence we have learned that the perfection of our ideals is a long struggle both at home and abroad.We learned that independence based on those ideals involves more than sovereignty for a land and its people. We learned that the founding principles enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and guaranteed in the Constitution are goals and aspirations to act on and perfect.
When the Confederate States of America threatened our union, President Lincoln led us in a 4-year civil war to preserve our independence and take another step in the realization of our founding concept of freedom for all of our people. When we became the greatest international power, we saw our responsibility as one of sharing those ideals with a world devastated by war and tyranny. We fought a 43-year Cold War with the Soviet Union on behalf of the principles of independence and freedom. It was a war for the hearts and minds of peoples around the world seeking their own beginning.
While we were doing that, we also engaged in our own soul-searching about the notions we were espousing to others. The results have been coming in and they confirm what we have always known: that we are a country of immigrants from every corner of the world and that the ideals first formally advanced by our founders also applies to every one of them.
The 21st Century finds us at the crossroads of generational change. It is a time of division and deep anxiety as the old generation struggles to remain in power and the new one begins to assume its place in the hierarchy. The new generation promises much change in the area of what defines the American social contract. It begins with the premise that we are a country of diverse communities that, working together, can achieve the next step in the journey to our founding principles.
While things look catastrophic at the moment as we are in the middle of a pandemic as well as a sometimes violent conversation about civil rights, it is the new generation that is fighting to take the lead in promoting greater diversity in our institutions and major changes in the way we value each other.
This July 4th is particularly important because it also announces in so many ways the arrival of a new tone associated with what it means to be an American. For example, monuments celebrating the leaders of the confederacy that betrayed the country beginning 159 years ago are coming down. Also, the State of Mississippi leadership is finally voting to do away with the Confederate battle flag as its state emblem. So, the journey to a more perfect union continues.
This 4th of July may not have all of the pageantry we normally see because people are generally not able to gather in celebration. But our independence ideals are secure.