What does the word “freedom” mean to you? What image is representative of this word in your mind?

Some say that being an American means having the utmost pride in your country. Others argue that it means to follow the ideals put forth in our Declaration of Independence — the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. All of these definitions are valid. But here are a few other things that I think describe what it really means to be an American.

To say simply thatΒ an American is whoever is born here or who has taken an oath of citizenship is like saying that the Bible or a contract is just ink markings on paper. It is true that a Bible is ink markings on paper, but it is not just that…it is, and we are much, much more. Some people focus on the idea that we are a nation of immigrants, that America is not based on a particular ethnicity. When you say you have to be Japanese to be Japanese, you are not making a false statement. But you can be Japanese and still be an American.

Tomb of the Unknowns – Arlington National Cemetery (VA)

We are truly a “melting pot” of cultures. It doesn’t matter (to most) if you are Latin, Asian, Arabic or Russian…if you are here, you are an American. The same goes for matters of social class, sexual orientation, religion … and the list goes on, and on. We are all American’s. Every day, my fellow citizens amaze me with their ideas, opinions, and random acts of kindness, enforcing the common connection we all share as Americans.

It is not as though we do not have our imperfections, flaws and domestic atrocities. We are an ever-evolving work-in-progress. That is the wonderful thing about life, we have the opportunity to shape and mold our existence. As an American, who has traveled the world a bit, I can say that we, as a country, are not liked and accepted as a “Good People” in all parts of the world. Many see evil, selfishness and an excessive need to impose our way of life in the need to be the “World Police”. Unfortunately, this too makes us uniquely American.

And what about the collective respect and admiration for those who choose to risk their lives defending our very way of life … our freedom. Regardless of how they feel about war, they protect our freedom – so we can have the right to voice our opinions, attend a public education, vote for our leaders, and travel freely from one place to another. Not having to worry about roadside bombs or being shot walking to the store. This is definitely what makes us uniquely American.

We have ideals, morals, traditions and a way of life that are different from any other place on this little blue planet in the middle of the existence. That is what makes us unique, that is what makes us united, and that is what keeps us free.

So, today and every day, enjoy our way of life. Our ‘right’ to life, as we know it, Our liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For these ideals are what make us GREAT.

Happy Independence Day, America!