What a glorious day.

Happy 243rd birthday to us.

Of course, we are throwing a party.

Hamburgers and hot dogs sizzle on the grill. Bowls mounded with potato salad, platters stacked with sweet corn, and juicy pink slices of fresh cut watermelon pique appetites as families gather and the sound of children’s laughter adds joy to the party.

Bunting hangs off porch railings. American flags fly proudly. Everyone dresses in red, white and blue.

Tonight, the sky fills with exploding chrysanthemums, twirling tadpoles of orange, and zooming ribbons of color booming into the sky.

This is a day we take pride in our past — each individual citizen alive to the sense of belonging to something special, being a part of a much larger whole — we are the United States of America.

We gather to give thanks to those men who made it all happen, who met during a sweltering summer in Philadelphia in 1776, who put their lives and livelihoods into danger as they agreed to “mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”

Despite deep differences, they joined to face great odds by declaring independence from the mightiest empire then on the earth.

These men voted to change the status quo. They dared to begin something totally new and untested, and they were willing to sacrifice in order to reach their goal.

According to an article by Ezra Taft Benson, on the website latterdayconservative.com, nine of the signers died as a direct result of the Revolutionary War and its hardships; six gave all their money to the war effort; 12 had their homes plundered and burned by the British; three of the four signers from South Carolina were imprisoned by the British for almost a year; John Morton of Pennsylvania, who voted for independence, was ostracized by his family, friends and neighbors.

But, all this was two centuries, four decades and three years ago.

Tomorrow, July 5, is our day of reckoning — when we have to prove we are more than armchair patriots wearing stars and striped shirts at a picnic.

Tomorrow we go back to facing the challenges before us.

Will we follow in our founding fathers’ footsteps and overcome our differences, finding the courage to move into an unknown future by working together?

Or, will we remain afraid of one another and new ideas, quarreling spitefully among ourselves — accomplishing nothing, only making our problems worse.

Will Friday be the day our elected and appointed officials remember they serve the people?

Will it be the day citizens of opposite views remember we are all patriotic and work to find common ground?

Will it be the day we understand Benjamin Franklin’s warning that “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately,” and heed the wisdom of Thomas Paine, who wrote, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”

Or, will we not?

We are the ones making history now.

How will we be remembered 243 years from now?

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