Reflections on the 4th of July


Every 4th of July, I begin to think about our nation's journey towards today. How many things we've collectively done right, making the entire planet a better place for others. I reflect on battles past, in a fight for freedom, and on looming narratives that cloud American dreams.

For America, it began on July 4th, 1776. A date I'll always hold in high regard as a band of farmers defeated the most influential global superpower on earth, earning independence.

July 4th, 2020, is particularly tricky as we navigate the truth in that every citizen does not feel the freedoms of a nation born of independence. Our battle today is of ideology and the very meaning of freedom. Privileges for every American to become the best version of themselves and thrive in a world, as Martin Luther King Jr. stated so well, judges people by the "content of their character and not the color of their skin."

Perhaps the most meaningful 4th of July I've spent was while in combat training at the Army base in Fort Lewis, Washington. We were conducting field exercises when our company commander pulled us together for a huddle.

At sunset, he raised the American Flag on a large tree branch and requested we all consider why we are here and what our service to our country means.

To understand the significance of that moment, I wish you could have witnessed the people gathered around the campfire. We were as diverse as the country we served. Black, white, brown, male, and female, we were all muddied from hard days of training - and yet together.

The stories told were all different. Why would a group of young college graduates volunteer to accept a commission in the US Army and serve? I found out the answers that day.

  • We wanted to honor those who came before us. Upon whose shoulders we were standing.

  • We wanted to do good works and make the world safe for every person.

  • We wanted to give our best in service to those other young soldiers who also volunteered to serve.

  • We wanted to preserve religious freedoms and capture the pioneering spirit of those who stepped on the moon.

That day as we shared, staring at the Flag and fire, our hearts longed for a better way - the American dream coming alive for all of us. We volunteered to preserve it, fight for it, and make it ready for everyone.

We didn't have the same religions, political perspectives, backgrounds, social-economic divisions, or beliefs. We didn't agree on tactics, the past, or the future. We didn't need to as we volunteered to serve each other.

Perhaps that's one reason why I celebrate the 4th of July. It is not because we are perfect instead because, by and large, we are a nation, which, despite our failures, continues to dream.

Admits this year's pandemic pain and protest, there is a force of good, which remains a collective group of volunteers. Each free to choose service for their reasons, which are as diverse and united as the states served. For me, the preservation of the American dream starts with learning lessons from our past and concludes with our collective aspirations of a bright future for all.