On America’s 236th birthday, we have a greater gift to give.
There is a Chinese saying that goes “may you live interesting times.” Nothing could be more true about the times we live in today. From the pain of job losses and the new realities of a global economy, to the explosion of social media and the hyper-partisan nature of our civil discourse, these times couldn’t get more interesting for America.
Our world has changed. America has changed; and, as we celebrate her 236-year journey from a colonial outpost to the leader of the Free World, we appreciate that America’s future has most often been secured not by a treaty or military success but rather by her ability to lead with vision, strength and humility in changing times.
For this generation of Americans, who have reaped the benefits and blessings from the struggles and achievements of those who have gone before, these times force upon us the realization that there are no magic formulas, or secret potions or “grand bargains” that will empower people, strengthen our economy or keep us safe.
Instead, as we face this 21st century frontier, America’s continued success can no longer be defined by some litmus test on social, economic or political issues but rather by our shared response to the scourge of drugs and crime gripping our states, a government that increasingly inserts itself into our lives; the family struggling to live paycheck to paycheck; the continual erosion of our constitutional rights, the corruption of our school system, and the weakening of our families.
As we celebrate America’s birthday on July 4 and prepare for the election of a new president, we have the opportunity to assert the preeminence of liberty. As the agendas of “special interests” continually push and pull at the nation’s attention, how much longer will we allow our agenda to slip between the political gaps or to fall on deaf ears?
Nothing moves us like those “unalienable rights” – life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. Nothing demands more of us than when those rights are threatened. They never, ever come free. They’re never held safe without a cost.
Those who came before us paid the price to make our freedom possible. Their efforts are why you and I can pursue happiness today. Now, we have the responsibility to do the same thing for the next generation to pursue the American Dream. As our nation celebrates her birthday on the one hand and struggles to regain her fiscal footing on the other, she must know she can’t do it without us.
True, we should be concerned about a rising tide lifting all boats, but we should be equally concerned about having a boat to begin with. We know the restless spirit of people across this nation, people who want their children to have the opportunity to have rewarding careers, safe neighborhoods and stable loving families.
We know of the resolve to make a better America in the eyes of the men and women who wear the uniforms of this great nation.
We have felt the strength that change requires; and we have seen it in the eyes of the American people and from the labor of their hands.
We know America to be “the land of the free and the home of the brave” because, for us, the American Dream is not a slogan but an opportunity.
In our hearts we know that even though there is dissension in the halls of Congress, there is consensus in the halls of our churches and synagogues, our schools and our workplaces. This consensus on things that matter to families in their everyday lives is where you and I must begin to focus America’s attention.
We must never forget that the promise of America is the promise of endless possibilities because America remains that place President Ronald Reagan called “a shining city on a hill” — a city that does not shine as the moon in a reflection of light from some another source; but rather, one that shines as the sun under its own power. The source of America’s light comes from within, emanating from people like you and me.
We should celebrate this gift on this and every Fourth of July to come.
Michael Steele served as the first African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee. He is a former lieutenant governor of Maryland and a political commentator. He will be providing commentary on all things politics for BET.com each week.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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