Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, the date on which Americans celebrate our nation’s independence. Robert F. Kennedy once said, “It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.” The American revolutionaries certainly serve as support for this statement. Without our forefathers’ courage to stand up for their own ideals, America as we know and enjoy it today might not exist. Our country’s all-volunteer armed forces protect and defend those same principles today and we salute their patriotism, professionalism, and commitment to serving our country. Often, we lose track that America’s precedence in its fight for independence and democracy has served as encouragement for others around the world to stand up for their ideals and force change even in the face of overwhelming odds and sacrifice.
This year, I will arrive in South Africa on July 4th. While July 4th is not South Africa’s Independence Day, I believe that it is a great date for me to arrive and experience my first trip there. For the majority of South Africans, their independence occurred when apartheid ended in 1994, a fairly recent date in our lifetime. In the 1970s and 1980s, college students and faculty members were the major voices of conscience pressuring the United States Congress and U.S. corporations to boycott South African goods and products in order to force an end to the apartheid policies. I distinctly remember the shanty towns that were erected at my alma mater and other colleges across the country to protest the living conditions in South Africa.
As I travel through South Africa on and around the time of this significant American holiday, I am aware of the sacrifices made by blacks and other minorities in South Africa in order to achieve equality and true democracy. I am looking forward to my visit and will share my thoughts about the trip after I return.
As you enjoy picnics, parades, and time with family and friends tomorrow, I encourage you to take a moment to salute our nation’s flag. I also hope you will pause remember those who have sacrificed their lives to protect the freedoms for which it stands, consider those around the world who have only recently been granted the rights and freedoms that we enjoy as Americans, and remember that there are others still struggling under governments that refuse to provide those fundamental rights to their citizens.
On this day as on all others, we should all be proud to be Americans.