Today, July 4th, marks Independence Day. It’s America’s birthday! When the patriots drafted the Declaration of Independence they included the rights of individuals to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Signing the document meant a new day for those who had come to America. 

My family immigrated to the United States in the early 1900’s. When they disembarked from their ships, they too recognized it was a new day for them and for their future family. They had no idea what the future held, but they were optimistic it would be better than the life they left behind. They were courageous and strong in the face of many obstacles. I admire their courage leaving familiarity to come to the unknown. They experienced discrimination because of their ethnic identity, faced a language barrier but persevered, worked hard, and left a legacy and heritage to cherish.

I grew up at the time prayer was allowed in public schools. Each day we began with the pledge of allegiance to the flag and a prayer. In unison, our class recited it, and I still remember: 

Almighty God,

we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee,

and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents,

our teachers and our country.

In the 1960’s school prayer, via a Supreme Court decision, was prohibited. We began with our pledge in class and in school assemblies, but the prayer was no longer spoken. 

Today you may be celebrating our country’s independence with a picnic, fireworks, or watching a parade. Regardless of how you spend today, reflect for a few minutes on gratitude for the freedom-independence-we enjoy. But also remember the first part of the New York state school prayer: “we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee.”

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