Posted July 3, 2022
Originally posted July 4, 2011
From America by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee, Neil Diamond“ . . . Free. Only want to be free. We huddle close, hang on to a dream . . . freedom’s light burning warm . . .”
The Fourth of July. Long weekends, fireworks, picnics, and all sorts of fun. It’s the American way and I enjoy those holidays a lot. It’s another great opportunity to recharge my batteries and chill.
However, as I get older – and as I chill - I find myself reflecting on what July 4th really means. I mean, really, think about it: We truly do live in the greatest country on this planet. Because of the tremendous freedoms we enjoy as a country, tens of thousands of people come to the United States of America to enjoy the same freedoms as we do.
Sure, we see evidence of some coming here to stir up trouble or to do our country harm. However, far many more come here with the purest of motives and the grandest, sweetest of dreams of true freedom. Their journey here is their own personal declaration of independence –independence from the tyranny of their homeland that they still love; independence from inequality on various levels; independence to succeed or fail.
What makes America so great? I think it all goes back to what our founding fathers wrote in this country’s Declaration of Independence:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men 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."
Over the years, I've met many immigrants to our blessed country. I've been in some of their homes and have enjoyed their hospitality. I never once met one who didn't express to me their love and gratefulness for these Unites States of America. Many - if not most - of them - have reminded me in the most indirect ways how much I take for granted the liberties our forefathers crafted for us and the lives of many who were sacrificed to maintain these freedoms.
When I first posted this piece eleven years ago, I had in my mind the memory of being present at an airport hangar owned by a major corporation who lent its use for a quick stop by one of our presidents. We had to get their hours ahead of time to clear security and to get our spaces.
As Air Force One pulled up parallel to the hanger, “America” by Neil Diamond was playing. When the president stepped out, the crowd roared, obviously amped up by the pageantry amped by this amazing song. Pee-Wee Herman could’ve stepped out of that plane and the response would’ve been no less chill-bump raising.
I went to this event – not because of who was president, but because of the presidency. That is why I choose not to name the president. It’s not important who it was. It’s important what that office symbolizes: The greatest country in the world.
As I amend this piece in July 2022, it’s not lost on me the irony of the story behind this song that Neil Diamond shared before singing it. Watch it and you’ll see what I mean. If you watch it and tears don’t come to your eyes, you need a refresher about what makes America great.
May we, and those who travel from all over the globe to call America home, always hold these truths to be self-evident. May we never again take them for granted. May we never forget what it took to make this country the dream destination of countless numbers who live in countries that suppress them. May we continue doing what makes this country great and may we properly correct those things that we can improve upon.
Happy Birthday, United States of America. May your freedom’s light burn forever warm.