About a year ago, I drove to Gilbertsville, Otsego County, on a snowy Sunday afternoon to help some young Scouts work on their citizenship merit badge. One of the Scouts was a small boy with a crew cut and one little front tooth, sitting in the front row, looking a little detached. I asked him what was wrong and he told me, “It’s Sunday! I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to learn nuthin’ on a Sunday. I’d rather be home playing video games.”
I nodded my head and then began an important conversation, talking about what it means to be a citizen and an America. We talked about being part of this wonderful society, the struggles we face individually and collectively and of those in other countries around the world, such as hunger, poverty and war. I emphasized how fortunate we are, that by a miracle of birth, we were both here in America, in a free society surrounded by loving family, friends and neighbors. After the meeting finished, I went over to the young boy and said, “What did you think? Was it worth it? Did you learn anything?” He nodded “yes” and told me that our visit was well worth the time, even on a snowy Sunday afternoon.
I have thought about that small boy and our conversation many times since that meeting. He, his fellow Scouts and all young people, are the future of our great country. We have an obligation – a mission to help them understand the value of our national freedoms – to help them realize that these precious freedoms are a gift. Our young people, all of us really, need to be reminded that many people on this planet do not have the freedoms and privileges we have in this great county – this experiment in democracy – America.
This gift of freedom was entrusted to us to preserve for future generations. From the early sacrifices made to form our nation, to the continued sacrifices of the many brave men and women who fight to keep our country free, we celebrate a society, a culture, a country that still serves as a beacon of hope to a struggling world.
This Independence Day, while we celebrate with our backyard cookouts, picnics at a nearby lake, or firework displays, I hope that we will all take a moment to reflect on America and all it has to offer. On this 233rd Independence Day, may we always be thankful for the “miracle of birth” that has given us the opportunity to be an American citizen. May we preserve and protect it. May we never take it for granted. God bless America.