This Fourth of July, the United States of America will celebrate its 242nd birthday since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Our Nation was conceived in liberty at its core. Together we the people, with ancestors from every part of the world, continue the struggle to live by its founding noble principles. Namely that, “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.” This powerful doctrine helped shape the scope, and enormity of the rapidly changing events in the United States.
America since its beginning has been on a twisting path toward democracy, fraught with learning experiences through countless mistakes, broken dreams and redemptive shame. Today, America’s daunting challenges of poverty, racism, drugs, the madness of gun violence, implementing empathetic immigration reforms and environmental concerns must be met with courage and wisdom. And we must make a compassionate commitment for justice for all. In essence, we are a determined Nation of people united to form a more perfect Union, a covenant that remains the foundation of our democracy. Each one of us can play a role in the fulfillment of that idealistic promise. In honoring America with tremendous pride we must find the courage to exercise our freedom of speech to speak out and correct injustices that arise. We have a moral obligation and urgent patriotic responsibility to stand-up in continuous vigilance to make changes that will safeguard our individual freedom and human rights. Treating others with kindhearted respect and dignity will send a cumulative ripple effect of hope to those who suffer.
Fortunately, during my lifetime I witnessed two dynamic men rise with a vision for peace and civil rights justice. Martin Luther King, Jr., who dedicated his reforms through non-violent civil disobedience, marched on Washington, D.C. in 1963. Before the largest civil rights demonstration in American history, Dr. King delivered his everlasting, I Have a Dream speech strengthening America with his aspirations and dignified trust for our future.
In 1968 when Robert F. Kennedy announced his Presidential candidacy optimism soared throughout the United States of America. He not only ran on a platform of social and economic justice that included women, but also was an outspoken critic of the prolonged Vietnam War. The optimistic expectations of Bobby quickly ending the war was disarming of any premonitions of the tragic events about to occur. On the evening of April 4, 1968, Bobby Kennedy delivered the heartbreaking news that Martin Luther King was shot and killed. Bobby delicately reminded us that Dr. King dedicated his life to peace and love between human beings. Bobby asked us as a Nation of people, both black and white, what direction we wanted to move toward, urging to replace bloodshed and violence with compassionate understanding. He pleaded to all Americans not to choose revengeful hate. Shortly afterwards, more gloom swept over America, sinking us deeper into despair.
On June 5, 1968, only 63 days after Dr. King’s death, Robert F. Kennedy was also killed by a gunman. America was deeply shocked deeply by these tragic, horrible murders that robbed us of our finest leaders. Sadly, the killings in Vietnam dragged on for another seven long years. Ultimately, the high cost of fighting this horrific war was paid with the lives of approximately 4 million human beings.
Collectively, the brilliant visionary dreamers of our past have illuminated the path toward America’s brightest future. Gradually, faint glimpses of the comprehensive globalized peace initiatives that we must expedite into practice, is coming into focus. I feel lucky to still be traveling on this extraordinary evolving American journey; arriving not near the end, but at the beginning of something unknown, good and new. On this Fourth of July, we can proudly commemorate America by treating all others with respect and dignity. America is great and becomes even greater when we strive to ensure everyone’s civil rights are upheld under the rule of law. And that is truly something worthy to celebrate.