According to my math, our country is only 8 generations old. We're still pretty young. As such, we should never forget the importance of the 4th. It was a significant moment, a bold step of our past that will continually shape our future. We are still the land of the free, and the home of the brave.
But July 4th isn't just a day of independence -- it is also a day of declared dependence too.
Let today be a day of declared dependence. Let's come together connected by our common values:
These values bring us together. They unite us and shape our vision.
It's often a misunderstood word today. But "diversity" is something that has always been us. It's why the USA is called the great melting pot. I love this quote from President Bush.
"We are a nation of communities... a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky."
- George H. W. Bush
Diversity means variety. We are a people from different cultures, different backgrounds with different qualities and perspectives. We are all contributors to the thousand points of light. And the framework for that diversity is our constitution.
I want to think that the day after my great grandparents came to the United States from Sweden, they went right to work tilling the land so that they could plant food for themselves and others to one day eat. They put their past life behind, and embraced a new world. A new land. And they were all in! Duty was a responsibility of all Americans -- and it still is.
This quote from John F Kennedy I think says it best.
"My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."
- John F. Kennedy
Encouragement means "to pour courage into." That's what this nation wants and needs. This is the forgotten value -- but it's still a value. Let's be encouragers. -- every one us.
"One flag, one land, one heart, one hand, One Nation evermore!“
- Oliver Wendell Holmes
Has this word lost its true intent? Honesty was what our parents taught us to be. Honesty is what eventually elected Abraham Lincoln into the White House. It's a fundamental virtue of every relationship. My fear is that Honesty has been hijacked by Criticism. They are not the same.
Honesty means you are being authentic - real -- while still be compassionate and kind. Criticism means you sharing your disapproval. How can these be the same? Has social media tricked us? Has the news media pulled the wool over our eyes? Time to put a stop to that...
If we can get back to be honest and kind, then we get back to being true Americans. I love Zig Zigglar's take on this.
"Honesty and integrity are absolutely essential for success in life - all areas of life. The really good news is that anyone can develop both honesty and integrity."
- Zig Ziglar
Let's put these words together. They are meant to be combined because when we say "life" as Americans, aren't we really talking about a quality of life focused on "liberty"?
So what is liberty? It's a state of being free from oppressive forces. Not being manipulated by the bully (or criticism). The bully comes in many forms. But as Americans we've created a government and a society who's mission is to ensure the liberty for all people. Liberty matters. Liberty is freedom. The qualifications for liberty? Duty, Honesty, Integrity.
I want to go back to JFK. He makes perhaps the best statement on the importance of liberty for us as a nation.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
- John F. Kennedy
By the way, liberty means that I do have a few key rights as a citizen that give me boundaries to enjoy my liberty. (see the Bill of Rights)
Okay - let's face it. This is a phrase few people ever use in conversation. The only time we use it is when we talk about the words in the Declaration of Independence, or in reference to a movie with a misspelled title of the same name staring Will Smith.
Ironically, Smith also starred in the blockbuster movie Independence Day; two totally different movies with clear titles references to the Declaration of Independence. Maybe we should explore what Smith has to say on this topic. But before we do. Let's unpack what this means.
"Pursuit" means to go after. Chase. Happiness is something we all want. The Declaration of Independence doesn't tell us that happiness is entitled to us. But the "pursuit" is something that we have the right to go after. Why? Because such a pursuit gives us purpose, and gives us hope. It's the American Dream.
Now let's explore what Smith might want to say about this.
I want the world to be better because I was here.
- Will Smith
That' might be quote that you probably didn't expect, but I actually think he nails it for all of us. You are here. You a citizen. Your pursuit of happiness - for it to be meaningful - has to be tied to tied to a desire to make an impact --- to help make the world a better place.
Never before in history have there been so many platforms for us to better the world. But those same platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube) are being used to divide us. The best way to fight that war, is (a) not give in to the triggers, and (b) offer real hope for othes.
You might think Trust goes with Honesty. They are certainly brothers, but they are not quite the same. Trust is about putting belief in someone else. Trusting your neighbors. Trusting your coworkers. Trusting your family. Trust creates confidence.
Think about it this way, we buy products and services from companies we trust. Right? The best products and services in the world, we believe, should be American. Trust is the great American virtue. But trust is something we need continually work on. We're human. We make mistakes. We're not perfect. Honesty, the brother to trust, allows us to receive forgiveness. How? Because trust is like a savings account, and honesty is the currency to bankroll it. When we do trustworthy things, were' seen as honest, but when we mess up, we ought to have some reserve trust in the account to recover.
As Americans, our opportunity is to look for ways to help others build Trust. So how do we do that?. I love this quote from Booker T. Washington.
Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him.
- Booker T. Washington
Booker's view gives us a practical approach to multiplying trust. When give opportunities for others -- it creates a sense of ownership and value. Let's build more trust in the world, not less! That's what we should be about!
These values and virtues matter. Values are what cast vision.
The fireworks used to celebrate the 4th are in many ways a reenactment of the battle of Forth McHenry, during the Revolutionary War. McHenry is located just outside the port of Baltimore. Francis Scott Key, a poet, was a prisoner being held by the British. As he looked out to watch his countrymen being attacked, he watched the American flag illuminate in the light of one explosion after another. It's in that chaos, he found great solitude that his fellow Americans had not surrendered - that the flag was still drawn. The next day the flag, despite being tattered and torn, still stood waving in the wind. From that experience, he wrote a poem that would end of being the very words of our National Anthem.
It's in that anthem we see our story. There are battles, but we don't give up. We stay focused on the vision. The anthem closes with the words describing our nation as "The land of the free and the home of the brave." That's a phrase that paints both vision and values. It ties to our American Dream.
I want to close out with some great quotes that remind us of that American Dream
My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.
- Abraham Lincoln
There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured with what is right in America.
- William J. Clinton
Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.
- John F. Kennedy
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.
- Ronald Reagan
“I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream.”...
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed — we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr
I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.
- Thomas Jefferson