Today we celebrate the signing of the declaration of independence, and the decision to break allegiance with Great Britain, opting for a free nation. We celebrate the courage to stand for something that never had been… with a strength that might cost everything.
And we celebrate the 238 years of history of this nation, enduring civil war, depressions, times of brilliant prosperity, and utter difficulty. We have survived great leadership, and inept leaders. And we as a people have embraced every culture of the world, a melting pot that is America.
“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name,
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” – etched on the Statue of Liberty
Among those “wretched refuse of your teeming shore” were both sets of my grandparents, who came here as older teenagers with not much more than the clothes on their back, a trunk of clothes and a small nest egg of money in cash. They were fleeing the chaotic churning of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire for a fresh start, a job, a new lifestyle, a new life. They were leaving all that is familiar, known for the unknown. Forsaking the opportunity to see their siblings, or parents, and walking away from the old village, and common culture of eastern europe for the melting pot of america. I can not imagine a journey of that magnitude at a young age of 17. I cant imagine the inability to communicate with loved ones, as we have today. The only communication was letters which took weeks to arrive at their destination. Freedom drew them here with nothing to loose, and hope of safety, and the desire to build the american dream.
And that would be what they found… jobs, marriage, children, houses, and they had a hard working life, but it was a good and honest life. My dad’s parents met in the russian enclave here in Cleveland. They had grown up in villages perhaps 20 miles apart in what is today the Polish Russian border. And my mom’s parents met in New York City, where she was working as a caregiver for an elderly man who’s family ran a jewelry shop. My mom’s parents left the bustle of New York City for a river town just north of Pittsburg, where they found a large amount of russian people, and settled there. Those were the days when shedding the image of the old country was essential – learn english, dress like everyone else, work hard, build the family, buy the house. They would live out the rest of their days in that small town of Arnold, Pennsylvania, raise 5 girls and 1 boy, and have a good life here. I dont think they ever saw their family in the old country again. But the freedom and the blessing of prosperity fell on them. After all, this was America.
So today we celebrate 238 years of freedom. Our republic has been a beacon of hope for the world and with the help of God it can continue.