Fourth of July an ex­cep­tional cel­e­bra­tion

The Covington News - - Opinion - Learn more about Jackie Gingrich Cushman at Cre­ator’s Syn­di­cate, www.cre­ators.com.

My ear­li­est Fourth of July mem­o­ries in­clude fire­works, flags, bar­be­cue and pa­rades. Not watch­ing pa­rades, be­ing in them.

As the daugh­ter of a Ge­or­gia politi­cian (my fa­ther, Newt Gingrich, be­gan run­ning for Congress when I was 7 and won his first race when I was 11), I found the Fourth of July to be more of a marathon than a day of rest.

The day would be­gin in Atlanta with the WSB pa­rade. This would be fol­lowed by two or three more pa­rades.

Be­fore Ge­or­gia House Speaker Tom Mur­phy had the 6th District di­vided into lit­tle pieces in an at­tempt to get rid of my dad, we would al­ways par­tic­i­pate in the New­nan pa­rade.

The route would be­gin in the com­mer­cial district, wind its way through town, travel the length of the rail­road tracks, where Dad would shake hands on both side of the pa­rade route and my sis­ter and I would carry signs and wave, and then there would be a mad sprint through a more sparsely pop­u­lated res­i­den­tial area be­fore fin­ish­ing in the park where the Ro­tary would serve bar­be­cue.

The day would end at a lo­cal fes­ti­val (of­ten in

“For those of us blessed enough to be born in the United States, it is easy for

us to take our free­dom for granted.”

Car­roll­ton) that would be capped off with fire­works.

The at­tire for the day re­volved around red, white and blue.

One year, I wore red shorts, a blue top and a white but­ton-down short­sleeved shirt open and tied at the waist. Yes, it was the late ‘70s.

The Fourth of July, our nation’s birth­day, was a time to cel­e­brate, be thank­ful and be aware of how lucky we are to be Amer­i­cans. So it is too to­day.

A lot has changed since I was a child walk­ing in pa­rades. I’m mar­ried, we have two chil­dren, and I ap­pre­ci­ate many things that I took for granted when I was younger.

My thank­ful­ness and aware­ness to be an Amer­i­can has strength­ened and deep­ened. Free­dom. We have so much free­dom in Amer­ica.

Some­times it’s hard to ap­pre­ci­ate what we have un­til we look at what oth­ers have not had.

A good friend, Luis Haza, was born in Cuba and lived un­der its to­tal­i­tar­ian regime. When Luis was a small boy, his fa­ther was taken from his fam­ily’s home and ex­e­cuted by Raul Cas­tro ( Fidel Cas­tro’s brother) be­cause he wanted free elec­tions.

Luis’ mother fled to Europe with her chil­dren, and they even­tu­ally im­mi­grated to the United States.

Luis be­came an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen and loves our coun­try with great pas­sion and emo­tion. He un­der­stands that we have great free­dom.

With hard work and thou­sands of hours of prac­tice, Luis be­came one of the top Amer­i­can vi­olin­ists, play­ing in the Wash­ing­ton Na­tional Sym­phony.

Now re­tired from the sym­phony, he guest con­ducts in­ter­na­tional or­ches­tras and vol­un­teers with the Coastal Youth Sym­phony, in St. Si­mons Is­land, as con­duc­tor and mu­sic di­rec­tor.

For those of us blessed enough to be born in the United States, it is easy for us to take our free­doms for granted.

Af­ter all, that is all we have ever known, and we have be­come used to them.

It is im­por­tant that we un­der­stand we live in an ex­cep­tional nation.

We were founded with the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence. It says, in part: “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. That to se­cure these rights, gov­ern­ments are in­sti­tuted among men, de­riv­ing their just pow­ers from the con­sent of the gov­erned ...”

This dec­la­ra­tion ac­knowl­edges that God grants in­di­vid­ual peo­ple their hu­man rights. Peo­ple then loan power to our gov­ern­ment. The gov­ern­ment holds only as much power as we, the peo­ple, are will­ing to yield.

These “ self-ev­i­dent” truths seem sim­ple, but are pow­er­ful.

First, all men are cre­ated equal.

We all have equal value at birth. It does not say that, re­gard­less of whether peo­ple work, they shall end up equal.

We are cre­ated equal and given equal rights by our Cre­ator: life, lib­erty and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness.

Not a guar­an­tee of hap­pi­ness. Hap­pi­ness is up to ev­ery in­di­vid­ual, not guar­an­teed by the gov­ern­ment.

We are a nation of be­liev­ers in God.

This pro­vides us with op­ti­mism, a be­lief in the fu­ture and so­lace and strength in times of cri­sis.

This year, whether you are in a pa­rade or watch­ing a pa­rade, re­flect for a few mo­ments about how in­cred­i­bly lucky we are to live in the freest coun­try in the world, where we, not gov­ern­ment, get to de­ter­mine our des­tiny.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Colum­nist

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