Because of the freedom we celebrate on July 4th, we can write an editorial, a letter to the editor, criticize leaders we elected and their policies, vote them out of office, own property and pray ? or not ? to who we want.
And 231 years after Patrick Henry retorted "Give me liberty or give me death," the experiment churns on.
It is a precious gift that so many around the globe don't have.
But as strong as our nation is, democracy is a fragile thing that has a cost.
It has taken sacrifice to advance the values enshrined in our founding.
Overmatched colonial rebels made that sacrifice in 1775 when they dug in against 2,000 British troops in the Battle of Bunker Hill.
It took half a million deaths in a civil war to reaffirm democratic ideals and root a nation in a culture that abolished slavery.
Martin Luther King Jr. went to his tomb hoping for a day when freedom truly would ring.
And American soldiers ? more than 2,500 of them ? are still dying in the name of that freedom.
We owe it to those who have gone before to continue the experiment, to ensure that as communities we are truly dedicated to the proposition that "all men are created equal" and have a shot at vital freedoms and human dignity.
We live an era when democracy is threatened. Bombs are exploding every day. Divisions of wealth have become acute. And rhetoric and the politics over immigration have turned ugly.
It's time to reaffirm a commitment to advance the nation's cause, ensuring that economic, political and social justice will always win over tyranny.
But that too will take sacrifice.
People from many backgrounds will watch the fireworks shows on Tuesday. But they'll be watching for one reason ? to celebrate independence. And that's a beautiful thing ? certainly the way it should be in a nation dedicated to E pluribus unum ? out of many, one.