238 years ago, this nation discovered its destiny among the nations of the world. It became a light in a dark world. It became a free republic where no there was no king usurping authority over the rest of the citizenry. “We have no king but King Jesus,” was the rallying cry of the day. Of course America, while based upon Christian principles, was a nation that drew from and respected a variety of traditions. Some leading citizens were Jewish, Deists, and Paine was an atheist. The Christian traditions represented were everything from Quakers to Catholics to Anglicans to Methodists, to Baptists. Thanks to America, that seems normal, in that day, it was not. America refused to have a national church, but unlike the French revolution, it valued the contribution of faith. Without government trying to control it, faith could lift our spirits and strengthen our humanity.
America was viewed as a threat by monarchs across the world. They hoped that their people would not understand the magnitude of the American experiment. They did. Monarchs around Europe either gave up power to the people to hold their wealth and celebrity status or they gave up their lives as the people took charge. The movement spread around the world. Today, the majority of the world has some form of self governance.
Before America, human rights was a concept limited to a few circles, mostly recognized in the Anglo-Saxon tradition and even there it was not fully developed. Now most of the world gives it at least lip service. Billions of people can choose their own religion, occupation, spouses, and leaders without legal sanction.
America first proved that all Europeans, all Africans, all Latinos, all American Indians, and all Asians could get along. All Christians could get along, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus could all get along among themselves. Then gasp, it proved that all humanity can get along. Not just get along, prosper, love, and be one people. Sure it is not always smooth sailing, but instead of wars, we talk. Instead of despising our differences, we embrace them. Instead of focusing on those differences, we notice the vast similarities that unite us. We all want our families to prosper, be in health, and spiritually alive. America gives us hope that if people can get along then one day nations will.
The American Constitution gave us a way to protect intellectual property with the patent and copyright. Technology, literature, music, and art spread like never before. Science became marketable. Nothing has changed humanity more. Medicine has advanced beyond our dreams. Super computers have redrawn our understanding of the world. We have seen the galaxies, we walked on the moon, and played with roving robot explorers on Mars. What others could barely imagine, we accomplished.
Poverty in America is better than all but the rich had in previous generations. Americans can eat what they want from around the world. We can travel the world in days not years. We can fly to different continents in hours not sail for months. We can communicate in a second to any nation.
The world is better because of America. When the fireworks go off tonight, think about the fact that America lit up a dark world and is the beacon of hope for all humanity.