The Fourth of July has rightfully become a day of celebration. It is a time for family, friends and repose. It is also a day for reflection.

For while July 4, 1776 was a momentous day in history, it is helpful to remember how aspirational the actions of those men in Philadelphia truly were. Independence was proclaimed, but far from earned. A war had to be won and its outcome was far from certain at that moment, and for years to come.

This country has had to contend with the meaning of the 4th, during a bloody Civil War, World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and many other conflicts. Many of our service men and women find themselves in far and dangerous places today. We have had to contend with the meaning of this day as we struggled for civil rights, women’s rights, and gay rights, labor rights, protecting the environment, education, and so many other worthy efforts whose struggles remains a work in progress. The Fourth of July is like a yearly check up on the health of our national experiment in democracy.

We have learned that Independence and freedom are not granted. They are earned through hard work. For those who find despair or worry on this day about the direction of our nation, perhaps it is helpful to remember that we have faced stiff odds in the past. What has proven successful is energy, action, and sacrifice to ensure the country we know and love can continue to grow in its justice and live up to the full meaning of those beautiful words “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Happy Independence Day.

*This was first posted on FB on July 4, 2017