When those colonists declared their independence 243 years ago, they weren’t doing it at the victory party, but taking a leap of faith at the start of what would be a brutal fight. Even after the war, they would have decades of pain and strife trying to build and improve upon their ideas.    

From the past sins of slavery, Jim Crow and to today’s fights around housing, healthcare and our child detention policy, our nation’s hands are dirty from the work of trying to perfect our Union. Generations after it was signed in Philadelphia, we are still working at it. 

Freedom isn’t free and so this is a day to not just mark our nation’s independence, but to remember all those who have and are sacrificing to ensure that it stays that way. That certainly includes members and families of our armed forces. As a veteran, it’s hard to put into words how much my family and my community appreciates the unpayable sacrifice that these Americans gave/give to our nation on and off the battlefield. 

It also includes people we might not always think of as caretakers on the Homefront – the first responders, public servants, advocates and activists who tirelessly work to ensure that our democracy measures up in both words AND actions. Patriotism is based on your commitment to ensuring that people have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Even if that person looks, feels or seems different than you. Maybe even ESPECIALLY if they are different. 

That’s what we should remember most of all this July 4th. Amid all the barbecues, the parades and the flag waving, the work of making this country live up to the ideals of it’s founding is still unfinished. It can’t be done by one person, one group or one party. It demands all of our attention. Because the promise of America is worth getting it right – for everyone.

To quote The Father of The U.S. Navy, John Paul Jones, ” I have not yet begun to fight.” #4thofJuly #IndependenceDay #243thBirthday