Today, our nation celebrates Independence Day.
The federal holiday commonly known as the Fourth of July is a time for fireworks displays, parades, barbecues and to proudly display our nation's stars and stripes.
On July 4, 1776, we claimed our independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain and our nation's democracy was born with the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Every day thousands of people leave their homeland to come to the "land of the free and the home of the brave" so they, too, can pursue the American dream of freedom and independence.
Unfortunately, many Americans take those ideals for granted and the Spirit of '76 has long since faded from our country's subconscious.
Patriotism abounds, even though our nation's economy struggles, our military battles a hidden foe named terrorism and the rising cost of energy, especially gasoline, keeps soaring higher than a bottle rocket while seriously hurting families' budgets.
Living the American dream seems to become more and more difficult and the democracy and freedoms our nation was built on are chipped away by federal, state and local governments elected by fewer and fewer people.
Still, there is much to be proud of in America today.
We need to take time to recognize and celebrate our many freedoms as well as our good fortune to be a part of this great country on the Fourth of July. These freedoms we sometimes take for granted have been paid for in American blood dating back to the Revolutionary War and they need to be nurtured and protected every day.
This country is founded on the idea that we are "endowed by the Creator" with the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- but, God-given though such freedoms may be, the responsibility to earn, maintain and respect those freedoms for ourselves and for others rests on us.
We all need to do our part by working together, participating in our democratic process with an informed voice at the polls and to be active in our communities if we ever hope to fully achieve the greatness our country's forefathers imagined for this new nation on July 4, 1776.
As our Declaration of Independence states, "we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor." Take a minute to think about that today as you enjoy your backyard barbecue.