As we celebrate Independence Day, it is appropriate to reflect upon what truly makes America great.
It is not one person or group.
It is not a document or set of laws.
It is not the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, but the values, ideals and aspirations given life in those documents and in the words of our greatest leaders from Thomas Jefferson to Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King Jr.
It is not the actions of our government but the actions of our people who, inspired by those ideals, gave their lives at home and abroad to preserve them. It is the actions of people who, in the face of hatred, walked into classrooms, sat at lunch counters and refused to move to the back of the bus, in order to remind us of those values. It is the actions of people who live out those values in our communities.
It is the actions of those who refuse to despair. Those who, in our darkest hours, when we have lost our way, lift their lamps to guide us back to our first principles: that all people “are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
America’s greatness is the shared ideals of our history, which are the better angels of our nature, forever calling us to be better. America’s greatness occurs whenever we hear and follow that call.