There's something satisfying this Fourth of July in the simple traditions that mark the holiday. Two long wars and the endless insurgencies have left the nation tired and introspective about the terrible sacrifices America has made, and there are more troubling developments in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other hot spots that have renewed debate about protecting our national interests. But today is a moment to celebrate our independence and our American values, to enjoy the familiarity of hot dogs and fireworks, parades and family picnics.
Celebrating that day only a couple of hundred years ago when the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence also is a reminder of how quickly and firmly this nation became a worldwide model for freedom, human rights and common decency — values that are the very foundation of American life and the dreams of so many of our fellow men.
America's record at home and abroad is not perfect, and our nation still has a way to go in ensuring fair and equal access for all to jobs, housing, society and the political process. But the experiment the Founding Fathers launched has not only endured but grown, because the truths they held as self-evident capture what all humans want — the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The surge of violence in Iraq and Syria, the political stalemate in Afghanistan and the emerging threat from terrorist movements masquerading as liberators have combined this holiday to make America think twice about its international obligations. This nation cannot be expected to export its own experience across the globe. But it should not be surprised that so many nations keep calling for help.
America should be proud on this holiday of the role we have played over the arc of history. While these are dangerous times abroad and polarizing times at home, the nation is healthy and secure, and still on guard against man's inhumanity to man. There is a continuity to the American experience that puts even the worst news of the day into perspective.
This nation has seen itself through incredible challenges because American ideals are universal even if the ability to pursue them is not. So on this holiday, let us celebrate what makes America a symbol of good across the world. And let us recommit to those values and that independence so the next generation can look back on the same storied history.