Fourth of Julys growing up in Grand Blanc Michgian were always big celebrations.  My Dad always had some kind of fireworks, there was always good food  out on the grill and lots of company.  When I married and had kids and then my parents moved to a house on the lake, my Dad's love of the holiday continued.  He would place flags along their lake front and he thoroughly enjoyed the day to hangout with his grandkids.  The Fourth of July had a special place in my Dad's heart.  He had immigrated from Bouf, Macedonia and became a citizen as soon as he could, five years after his arrival.  He flew the American Flag with pride and truly appreciated his citizenship.  Often as a child,  we would hear the tragic stories of my Dad's childhood growing up in a civil war in Macedonia following World War II.  We heard of how brutally citizens in his homeland were treated.  When my Dad would hear of or see on television people disrespecting the flag or our country he would give his commentary that usually went something like, "those people should kiss the ground of this country, they have no idea how lucky they are to live here.  Let them go do that where I came from or many other places around the world and they would be thrown in jail or killed, and their family would suffer too.  God Bless Amedika."  My Dad would say that a lot, "God Bless Amedika!" Sometimes he'd say it when he saw something so stupid or unexplainable, and I think what he meant when it said it then, was that 'God Bless You that anywhere else, you would be laughed out of town or eaten alive, but here, in the land of opportunity, you can do that and it's acceptable, you have a right to that." I heard this so many times growing up, as did my Mom and Brother.  It was engrained in my mind and heart that America was a good place, no, a great place, the land of opportunity.  

    Sometimes, I forget that everyone else doesn't have that framework in their history.  It is frustrating to see this country be taken advantage of, or to see actions or behavior that are contradictory to the American Dream or opportunities.  Around the Fourth of July when patriotic songs are played or sung in Church and we look back on our country's celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence from the British Crown, we are reminded of the struggles the Colonists had and the events that led up to the tipping point of waging war against the oppressive country they came from.  If  you  get a chance, read or better yet, listen to a reading of The Declaration of Independence.  A few years back, Morgan Freeman narrated a 15 minute film along with some other recognizable actors, of the reading of the famous document.  To hear the accounts leading up to and the intent to  establish a  United States of America,  

Morgan Freeman narrating the short film about the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

"whereas the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness....."

General George Washington crossing the Deleware with his troops during the Revolutionary War.

    When one stops and thinks of this document and what it says and what it gives to the citizens, it is quite remarkable.  From the early inception, the Founding Fathers felt that our freedoms were directly from God our Creator. There was much forethought in this document that would set in motion the wheels to gain our independence which turned into a long fought out war and later, eventually the United States Constitution which was the groundwork as to how the country would be governed.  

American Soldiers ready to storm the beaches of Normandy.

    The 247 years since that Declaration of Independence, has been a journey of ups and downs.  Since it's inception, the United States has had it's fair share of underdog moments.  Who would have guessed that an underfunded, undersupplied, and

To see where the battle of Normandy took place is an experience I will never forget. It is a solemn place to remembrance. 

unprofessional voluntary army could take on and win against the strongest nation in the world at the time?  The Brits were polished and well trained in European warfare.  The colonists fought rough guerrilla warfare, hiding in trees and bushes to pick off the Redcoats.  The Patriot soldiers were tough and gritty and they had what it took to take on the King's army and beat them.  A little less than one hundred years later a Civil  War nearly tore the country apart and along with the assination of President, Abraham Lincoln, the country recovered despite the broken hearts from such loss of life and destruction.  Getting into two World Wars meant a commitment by the American people who would experience these consequense for years to come and families who lost loved ones would feel the loss for a lifetime.  The Civil Right movement, the assisination of another President, John F. Kennedy and then his brother, Robert F. Kennedy and then Civil Rights activist, Martin Luther King, then involvement in the Vietnam War meant more turmoil, loss for America and a sense of distrust in our institutions.  Watergate and an energy crisis gave reason for Americans to have even more lack or trust in the government.  Victories in Eastern Europe, during President Ronald Reagan term and the tearing down of walls and curtains gave our country a new respect around the world.  Over and over, America bounced back from every hardship and tragedy.  The world took notice and people around the world continued to equate immigrating to the US as a door to opportunities available no where else on earth.  American became know as the Land of freedom for all and opportunity to any willing to work for it.  The United States became a leader on so many fronts and the phrase, "As the US goes, so goes the world."

Lady Justice, blindfolded. The American legal system, known for fairness for all.

    Not only was the opportunity enviable worldwide, but the fairness of the judicial system as well. Lady justice, known to have a blindfold on, meant that all were treated fairly and all are innocent until proven guilty, decided by a jury of one's peers in our land.  Also, respected by the rest of the world was our election system and even  a former President, Jimmy Carter and First Lady, Rosalynn, were invited to other countries to help establish fair elections.  The rest of the world admired that.  

President Jimmy Carter and his wife Roselyn monitoring an election in Nepal back in 2008.

    Financial systems following the stockmarket crash of 1929, slowly gained a renewed respect from the world with stringent laws and regulations.  Foreign investors felt secure with their investments in American companies and banks.  America meant quality, creativity and innovation.  Likewise, the American university system with top ranked schools like Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, and top state universities attracted cream of the crop students from around the world.  

    Looking at all of these qualities, our way of life, our melting pot culture, vast natural resources, forests, parks and landmarks, the arts, competitive professional sports teams, the American way of life,  the possibility of living the American Dream for all willing to work hard for it and it's no wonder that we are the envy of the world.  Despite our problems, THIS STILL IS THE LAND OF OPPORTUNITY.  These last two weeks preparing for this piece, I attempted to look through the lense of an outsider at our country.  Yes, I saw the issues at hand of crime, the economy, the border, lack of trustworthy leadership, social issues, etc., yet even with so many fires to be put out, the goodness and foundation are still there for the takers and dreamers.  The freedoms we have and the American spirit of "Let's roll up our sleeves and get it done," still exists.  In fact, sometimes, with obstacles in the way, we perform at our best.  Consider those Patriots and  those young privates scaling the cliffs of Normandy and storming the beaches.  Consider the Helen Kellers, the Irving Berlins, the Jackie Robinsons, the 1980 American Olympic Hockey Team, the Kurt Warners, the Frank Sinatras or Dr. Ben Carsons.  The stories of the American underdogs are numberous and some of us have our own.  A few bad apples shouldn't spoil the whole country and they won't..."God Bless Amedika!"

Above is the link to the audio of this on my Spotify podcast "It's a Great Day To  With Mary Yana Burau"...Wishing you a Great Day!