Happy 4th of July everyone! Today is the day that Americans everywhere celebrate American Independence Day. It is a day of family, food, and fun. When Americans think of 4th of July, they think of picnics on the grass, swimming on a hot summer day, playing a game of baseball with the neighborhood kids, watching a parade, and being awed by the nighttime display of fireworks. All over the country, people take the day off to celebrate with family and friends.
America’s national day is more than just a celebration of our independence – it is a symbol of what a group of people, with common ideals and the will of the people, can achieve. The Declaration of Independence stated that “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” and that everyone has “certain unalienable rights.” These are the beliefs that our country was founded on, and the beliefs that we celebrate each year on this day. Our Founders were visionaries, although in 1776 they were risking their lives by signing the Declaration of Independence. But sometimes that is what it takes in order to envision and defend democracy.
Democracy, and the institutions that protect it, require constant work. That is why we have limits on the terms of our elected officials – so we can benefit from new ideas and new leaders, and our experienced leaders can advise or go on to develop the private sector. Our judges are constantly working to interpret the law in a modern context, and our lawyers are working to defend the rights of workers and corporations alike.
I’d like to express my thanks to the American Cambodian Business Council for organizing such a wonderful event this past weekend. Although I couldn’t be with my whole family this 4th of July, my son and I greatly enjoyed being able to meet so many of our fellow Americans and to feel such a wonderful sense of community so far from home.
That community, and the people I work with at the Embassy on a daily basis, reminds me of what it means to be an American. “What does it mean to you to be American?” is a topic that our children often have to write about in school, and the answer is different for every person. I’m curious to know if Cambodians ever have to write about what it means to be Cambodian in school. What would your answer be? Please write me a response, and I’ll post some of my favorite answers on the Embassy Facebook page!