What makes this day and this country so unique is that it was born from a philosophical idealism which resonates even today.
We were born from an armed struggle to be free from tyranny.
This is not about politics, which party deserves to rule, which politician is worthy of re-election (none in my book) but about the birth of an idea and a country which would allow those who came here to live their lives as they chose without interference, control or coercion.
People came here, like my grandparents, from places which did not respect the dignity of the individual, who persecuted, denied access, assaulted individuals on the basis of personal or religious beliefs.
This country was different.
Of course we know how often we failed as a country to live up to these ideals–the usual litany is painfully true–treatment of native American peoples, African slavery, treatment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. But we came to recognize these mistakes and to strive to correct them. We, as a country, have not pretended to be perfect, only to have a desire to become more so.
It is so disheartening for Americans of all backgrounds and traditions to come to realize that there are those among us who do not recognize and respect the basic foundations of this land.
They are not here because they respect the idea of tolerance. On the contrary, they have used the idea and tried to destroy the idea from within.
If there is anything that all Americans share today, it is the gratitude for a nation which is based on an idea–that we are all created equal, that we should have the opportunity for "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".
I could argue that this idea might appeal to everyone on the planet. There are clearly cultures and traditions which do no embrace this concept. Perhaps we need to recognize this truth. Perhaps we need not be expending our priceless young people and resources to convince others who are not ready or willing to accept it.
For those of us who see the idea as "self-evident" we wonder how this can be possible.
I'm afraid the reality is quite different.
Perhaps we need to focus on those who share our dream, our idea for a better life.
To those proud Americans I say, "happy birthday".