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Column: Message in a bottle

Posted: July 5, 2018 3:01 p.m.
Updated: July 6, 2018 1:00 a.m.

As I walked down the beach on this July 4th admiring all the spirited displays of American pride, my mind kept wandering to thoughts of our Founding Fathers. Looking down at the surf, I imagined seeing a glass bottle rolling in with the surf.  Of course, this bottle contained a message, a note of sorts from George and friends. It would tell us the United States was not born in peace but in conflict. They would be speaking from their own experiences inside Independence Hall almost two and a half centuries ago where our Constitution was debated and, in 1788, completed. They would tell us they, too, had plenty of disagreements over governing our new country. The last line of the note would tell us to seek to confirm, strengthen, and celebrate the “we” in “We the people of the United States.”

Most Americans would agree our country is somewhat divided today, but we must remember our country has made it through times of much deeper division, in our lifetimes, let alone in the reach of our national memory. We appear to be divided on many lines. One side of the margin sees our nation so flawed it requires fundamental change; another side views our foundation as close to perfection that change is not needed on any level. We can certainly agree we do have challenges; issues that are in need of fixing but as our Founding Fathers did, we will resolve our problems as well. At the intersection of conservatism and progressivism, there have always been disagreements about whether to love America for what it has been or what it should be. It can be both. We must have a voice and speak without fear. We must not be afraid of conflicting ideas that we silence them. We must listen when we disagree. Civility must be present. If we demand acceptance and tolerance for ourselves, we must give it in return. The pride most of us feel stems from the beliefs Americans are a generous and fair-minded people. We believe we can prosper while respecting individual rights and liberties, and by observing the rule of law.

As we reflect this week on the freedoms we enjoy as Americans and the birth of our democracy, remember the fight was costly.  The baton is now ours to pass along to future generations.  My father instilled in me a deep love for country that has led me to become an active and extremely proud citizen. I can certainly do more. I want to do the same for my children.  President Ronald Reagan summed up well the importance of passing this appreciation on: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be … handed on for them … or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our … children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

There is not a more appropriate time to rededicate ourselves to our American ideals that unify us. We can return to being hopeful and confident about the best of ourselves individually and collectively. The message is in a bottle.  Happy Birthday America! God bless you!

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