Americans looking for the meaning of this Fourth of July holiday can scan the front pages and the Internet. Across the globe, in the most desperate situations, millions of people are risking their lives to demand the same rights and human dignity that this nation's Founding Fathers fought for nearly 240 years ago. Today's holiday is a reminder of the ties that bind Americans and how the nation's character endures as a model for mankind.
The Fourth of July has always had a look and feel of no other American holiday. The parades, the smell of barbecue, the crack of a bat, the fireworks cascading from the sky have long been rituals of the nation's birthday. The color and simple traditions capture the pride and comfort that Americans take in sharing an identity that has grown only stronger over the generations. That spirit was put in play again this week when the National Park Service announced that the Statue of Liberty would reopen for the first time since being hammered by Superstorm Sandy in October.
No nation's history is perfect, as America's discrimination against American Indians, blacks, women and others demonstrated over the years. And it is foolish for any society to believe that it has no more work to do in providing equal access to all. But America has shown a great capacity to evolve as a beacon of justice and liberty while staying true to the Founding Fathers' belief in the peaceful continuity of government. And the nation has not shied away, even when the pain to its own people was unthinkable, from leaving its protected shores to provide security and hope to those without either.
So it's no accident that this holiday finds the citizens of Egypt, Syria, Turkey and other states in crisis across the globe looking to America for help in resolving their bloody and fast-escalating internal conflicts. That call reflects the standing that America has even in those parts of the world where the United States is vilified and blamed by extremists for every domestic problem. The American ideal is still alive in the darkest corners because its essence is life and liberty.
This is an impressive record for a nation that's young by every standard and whose population on that memorable day in 1776 when the founders adopted the Declaration of Independence equaled the number of residents in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Manatee counties today. From those humble beginnings, an ambition was born that carries America and its admirers today.