A holiday that we should never take for granted


July Fourth is a holiday that truly deserves to be celebrated by all Americans. The bottom line is that July 4, 1776 began the daring experiment that led to the formation of the greatest nation in the history of the world, which has produced more opportunity and more freedoms for more types of people than ever thought imaginable. I say this not as a super patriot, but as someone whose individual experiences and opportunities to observe so many countries up close have made me appreciate America even more than I would have otherwise.

Before the naysayers start with their litany of complaints, let me make it clear that I know full well that all has not been perfect for everyone. Besides the unique injustices suffered by African-Americans and the discrimination against Jews, Catholics and Japanese Americans, there has been intolerance toward a number of immigrant groups, particularly those that arrived in waves, such as the Irish in the 1840s and the Italians in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Having said that, I believe unequivocally that no nation has done more to give more races and nationalities the opportunity to advance and live their lives to the fullest. These are people from many countries that oppressed their own people or waged war against their neighboring countries, whose people have come to America and learned to live side by side.

At the international level, the United States rescued Europe in two world wars in the 20th century, and when, at the end of World War II, we were as powerful as any world power had ever been — including having sole control of nuclear weapons — the U.S. not only began unilateral demobilization, but also rebuilt our enemies, Germany and Japan. Then, in the face of Soviet aggression, we created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and provided security and stability to a Europe, which had been wracked by wars for centuries.

What has made the great experiment work is not that we are a melting pot, but that we are a stained glass window, a mosaic in which each group maintains its individual identity while adding to the overall beauty.

The greatest achievement of the American experiment was giving ordinary citizens the power to select their government leaders. No royalty or unelected dictators. While the leaders we have selected have often not been perfect, the democratic system has worked. It is this system that has constantly striven to correct injustice and improve our quality of life, and which allows us to speak freely and demonstrate peacefully. Because we have these freedoms to make peaceful change, the anti-police riots in the summer of 2020 and the Jan 6, 2021, attack on the nation’s Capitol cannot be justified.

American democracy is a great gift, but also a constant challenge. We do not have the luxury of complaining and sitting back. It is a contact sport. We cannot ignore injustice or inequity; nor can we allow ourselves to be defined by it. We must appreciate our nation’s greatness and fulfill the freedoms and challenges it provides us all. God bless America! Happy Fourth of July!

Peter King is a former congressman, and a former chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security. Comments? pking@