What Are You Getting America For Her 240th Birthday?

4thofJuly3I’ve been thinking about getting our country a gift on her birthday this year.

But what can I give a country that already has so much? What can I give that has value and significance?

When I was about 5 years old,  I remember my father telling me that the only two signers of the Declaration of Independence who went on to become presidents of the United States, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, both died on July 4, 1826, the nation’s 50th birthday.

It’s one of those kid things that you never forget and never quite understand either. It’s kind of like one of my wife’s “kid beliefs” which was that everybody died on their birthday, except that in this case it’s true.

These old friends really did die on the same day and it was July 4th.

This is a presidential election year and once again we are discussing the place of immigrants in our society. A wave of refugees from the Middle East is testing Europe’s values and beliefs about borders and immigration. Great Britain just exited the European Union.

I’m thinking that one thing I can give to a country that has given so much to me, and my family of immigrants, is to study the Declaration of Independence on July 4th.

As I study this world-changing document, I will seek guidance and try to understand what our founding fathers’ aspirations were for our country and I will meditate upon the gap that exists between those ideals and my personal behavior.

I will pledge my allegiance to aligning myself more closely with the ideals and wisdom of my country’s founders who continue, to this day, to inspire the world’s imagination.

I know. It’s not that great a gift. It’s a small thing.

It almost makes me ashamed to offer so little when I know that so many service men and women are giving so much. Despite this reservation, I will give my small gift on July 4th and not over think it to the point where I convince myself that doing nothing is a better option.

I’d love to hear about your gift ideas. Please leave a comment.

A slightly different version of this article was first posted July 2, 2012.

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