This is one of my favorite times of the year. The week surrounding the 4th of July is a time when families are planning for cookouts and kids are getting excited about fireworks shows, and people actually stop for a few minutes and think about this incredible experiment called The United States of America.
With so much turmoil going on around the world it is easy to become pessimistic about the future. There are so many people oppressed and poor and subjugated. Wars seem to be raging on all fronts and human atrocities are hardly shocking any more, because we see them on the news and read about them online on a daily basis. We see children crossing borders alone. We see radicals killing and maiming in a proclaimed perversion of religious ideology. We see politicians arguing and manipulating all sides so that they can claim moral high-ground.
And yet we, the people, continue to go to work every day and raise our families and strive to make life better for our kids. With so much negative swirling in so many places and so much hardship around the world, we Americans rise every day with the one thing that so many want but do not have – opportunity.
Sometimes we lose sight of what this great nation was founded upon and what our forefathers wanted. In the tedium of daily life we see our hardships as difficult because most of us live within circumstances that the rest of the world can only dream of. Most of us eat each day and live in a sheltered home with conditioned air and heat. We can get together with our friends and we can worship together with our fellow believers.
We can assemble and we can protest. We have the incredible gift of liberty.
For many around this world the chance for liberty is only a dream, but in this great land it is a given. It is a given so much so that we can lose sight of liberty as a virtue and begin to think that we are owed more than opportunity. We can begin to think that this great nation should do more than protect us and provide an environment where we are free to chase and build our opportunities.
I had the opportunity to visit with a gentleman who manages an orphanage in interior Mexico. My church helps to sponsor the kids, most of whom they find on the streets. Listening to his dreams for the kids he has in his charge and you hear a man that dreams that some day these children will have opportunities. He dreams that someday they will be skilled enough to work and grounded enough to love and be loved. He dreams that they will have the confidence to pursue dreams along with the intellect and spirit to do the dreaming. His hope for them is that some day they will have opportunity.
With our nation’s birthday quickly approaching, it is a great time to sit our kids down and talk about what it is that truly makes this nation great and why we are the most blessed people to ever live. Talk to your kids about the sacrifices that previous and current generations of men and women have made to give them this day. Talk about the dream and intent of the men and women who stood up to a monarchy so many years ago and how they dared to dream then speak and the make freedom real. Talk about how the dreams of their forefathers were to have a country where they could live and work and worship and assemble and talk and grow. Talk about how those dreams have come true.
After talking for a few minutes about how this great country came to be, tell your kids that their turn is coming and they must approach the future with the same hope for opportunity. They must not feel they are owed by this country but instead, what can they do to keep this country great.
Share with them the incredible words of President John F. Kennedy when he said:
"In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shank from this responsibility — I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavour will light our country and all who serve it — and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own."