Just as this day serves as a reminder of the immeasurable bravery of those who have made America what it is today, it also renews in us the solemn duty we share to ensure our Nation lives up to its promise. We must not simply commemorate the work begun over two and a quarter centuries ago; we are called to join together, hoist their mantle upon our shoulders, and carry that spirit of service into tomorrow
President Barack Obama, July 2, 2010, Message regarding Independence Day
Dear Mr. President,
Two years ago, on July 4th, I was not feeling particularly patriotic. The group of travelers I was with had just arrived in a small Palestinian village after a full day of hiking; several people were sick, we were all hot and exhausted, and, while the village offered us the same legendary Palestinian hospitality that we'd received in other villages, there was an undercurrent of tension and sadness. The night before, in the darkness, IDF soldiers had arrested several young boys known to have been friends with another boy, already arrested for throwing rocks at a tank. Some of the boys had been very young, and no one knew when, or even if, they would be returned to their families. It was hard, that night, to feel anything but sadness at the situation my country had helped create and continued to perpetuate for these people.
I don't lie awake at night afraid of the soldiers coming. I don't worry about the door breaking down, or tear gas or bullets or bombs. Even the airport security seems like a breeze, by comparison. I am grateful for this security, these protections, and for the history of those rights we celebrate on Independence day. But I am a lucky one. I live in an America that still recognizes the paramount importance of these rights. Many of my neighbors, because they have dark skin, do not live in this America. Many of my fellow citizens have these rights violated, still. Even more undocumented immigrants in this country are kept from these basic rights because they were not born here. Untold numbers of so-called enemy combatants in Guantanamo bay and in military prisons around the world are denied these rights as a matter of policy. In places like Palestine, and Egypt, and Saudi Arabia the echo of America's foreign policy is the deprivation of these rights by regimes we call allies. Still greater in number are the people living in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan where these rights are a distant dream, a pretense for the wars that have brought them nothing but suffering and destruction.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.
All men. Not just those rich, white and lucky enough to have been born here. All men. Tonight I will lie awake wondering at the possibility of a world that reflects more completely the mighty ambitions of the founding we celebrate tomorrow. I don't think it is a lack of patriotism, on my part, to look at our current state and see all of the promise yet to be fulfilled. I am lucky, and grateful, to be an American citizen of privilege, and I can think of no better use for that privilege than to demand that the same be given to all.
Happy 4th of July, Mr. President.