***image1***The Fourth of July is arguably one of the most important dates in history, not only for America, but for all mankind. It was that fateful day 228 years ago when John Hancock signed his name to a document that forged America’s Independence and shaped the future of the world. A new nation was born. A nation founded on the principles of freedom and the astonishing idea that a government should serve those whom it governs.
What makes this day so important, more even than the day we won the war, is that it marked the point at which this nation committed to an ideal of self-determination and a vision of liberty, justice and freedom. This simple idea, this single act instilled in our ancestors the courage to stand up and fight for these basic rights. Not knowing what the outcome would be, they fought for their own freedom and were victorious. Ultimately that victory was contagious, setting off a chain reaction in which democracy would spread throughout the world.
Today, the United States symbolizes freedom and opportunity – not only for Americans but for people around the world. We are a beacon of hope to the poor, starving and oppressed. The men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces have fought valiantly and died for these freedoms we all enjoy.
Americans are accustomed to these freedoms and sometimes forget that there are others in this world who do not enjoy the same basic rights, and some who even see those rights and freedoms as threatening. It is unfortunate that it takes a tragedy such as Sept.11 to remind us how lucky we really are. But, it is also encouraging to see how proud of our country and how strong a people we really are.
These events have brought our country closer and bound us together more – exactly opposite to the intended outcome. The horror of that day sparked passion, kinship, caring and pride — and a fierce determination to never let this happen again.
What makes this day so important is that it established the first step on our nation’s journey to an ideal of individual self-determination and a vision of liberty, justice and freedom.
Over these past three years, we have brought freedom and a brand new respect for human rights to two separate nations. In Afghanistan our forces have destroyed terrorist camps, eliminated sanctuaries, given birth to a new government and brought comfort and relief to its people. In Iraq, we brought an end to an evil dictatorship and restored sovereignty to its people. With our help, the Iraqi men and women become stronger and more self sufficient every day and will surely one day be a great ally. In numerous other countries – Haiti, the Balkans, and others – we have stepped in to protect fledgling democracies as they struggle to get on their feet.
With every country to which democracy is spread our world becomes a more stable place. Terrorists are finding less support and fewer safe havens as more people begin to believe that these freedoms are within their grasp. Once they have that belief, their willingness to tolerate the oppression of tyrants vanishes and the opportunity to move toward freedom appears.
I am enormously proud to be a citizen of this remarkable nation, whose faith and allegiance is placed in a set of principles and ideals, and to be part of the marvelous military institution represented at this base and in the KMC. We have the most professional, lethal and simultaneously compassionate military the world has ever known. Within it, and particularly here, we have the most amazing caliber of professionals and supportive families I have seen anywhere in the world.
So, enjoy the celebrations this weekend, and the fireworks on Sunday, but also, and always, remember that they stand for the birth of a nation based on an ideal. Be safe out there!