This Saturday, the United States of America turns 244 years old. And, like nearly everything else in 2020, the birthday celebration will be different from what we’ve come to expect.
Due to social distancing, there’ll be no large gatherings for fireworks and barbecues. Parades will be on hiatus, and professional ballparks will sit empty and silent. But take heart, Bulldogs, the purpose for our weekend celebration remains the same. Despite the trying times we’re experiencing and the obstacles still ahead, we are free.
That sounded so good, let me say it again: We Are Free!
Thanks to the sacrifices of generations of Americans who came before us and the heroes in our midst today, we have the freedom to pursue our interests, to make the most of ourselves personally and professionally, and to worship as we see fit. We’ll never be perfect individuals and our great nation will always have its challenges, but because we are free, every one of us can strive to make ourselves and our country better for all.
Considering America’s current social climate, there’s probably never been a better time than now for introspection. I think many would agree that the one thing the coronavirus has done well is that it’s provided us with moments for self-reflection — time to examine our values, consider how we’re treating our fellow citizens and contributing to the nation’s greater good, and to think about what we can do to ensure better days are ahead for ourselves and future generations of Americans.
Our country has never seen a greater need for harmony than now. Certainly, there have been times in our history in which the demand was equally great, but the appeal for unity in America is just as critical and pervasively apparent now as it’s ever been.
I said it a month ago and I will say it again as we prepare to celebrate America’s birthday: It may be uncomfortable, but we absolutely must take the time to respectfully discuss and truly listen to one another’s thoughts and concerns. We must do as our forefathers did in the summer of 1776: summon the wisdom, selflessness and fortitude necessary to pursue the inalienable rights endowed upon us by our Creator.
In the 365 days leading up to the moment this country turns 245, it is my sincere hope that we will unite to pursue equity, from sea to shining sea, and continue endeavoring to serve as a beacon of light for freedom-seeking people worldwide. In his “I Have a Dream” speech of 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave the country some sage advice. “Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children,” he said. “It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.”
As I did this time last year, I’d like to encourage my fellow Bulldogs to wear their red, white and blue on July 4 and take pride in being American. Let us be thankful for the freedom we enjoy today and pay tribute to the contributions and sacrifices made by those who came before us in the name of freedom.
Have a safe and enjoyable 4th of July!
Lawrence L. Rouse, Ed.D.
President, Pitt Community College