On this Fourth of July, I am compelled to express my gratitude for the strength and resilience of the American experience. Never in my lifetime have we seen our collective public health, financial security and even our democracy threatened in such unpredictable ways.

But here we are. Reopening, rebuilding our economy and reengaging personally and politically. Talking to each other, masks off. Learning more, and looking each other in the eye, knowing we are trying to do our best. This is the American experience that I celebrate on this Fourth of July.

I was raised to believe in the American experience. My father was a U.S. diplomat representing our country abroad. The son of a traveling salesman with only a sixth-grade education, my father became a successful career Foreign Service officer based on merit. He was fortunate the marry my mother, a smart and passionate daughter of the South, a teacher who championed civil rights to overcome the shame of her family’s own slave-owning heritage.

From the time I can remember, I was told to stand up straight and behave, that I was representing the United States. While I can’t say I always behaved (especially in my teens), I always stood in awe and in respect for the country that we – our family – served.  America.

I am now 62. My parents have passed. The ideas that they worked for and represented – American enterprise, freedom, democracy, civil rights, international alliances, expanding prosperity – have been tested, yet I am hopeful. I see my friends and family talking to each other, not at each other. I see myself turning off the TV and social media, and engaging more.

The pandemic put us in our own little boxes, isolated and listening only to our own views and thoughts. It allowed us to demonize others, our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers, our family, who didn’t think exactly like us. Or whose echo chamber was different. By literally not seeing each other, we didn’t “see each other” as people who share so much in common.


America is a work in progress, as am I. I learned more about our history than I knew before, not all of it pretty. I heard my children’s anger and their demands that we do more to protect their futures, and the future of our planet. I recognized the inequities of income, health care and housing that I personally benefit from, and I am determined to share more and do better. I learned more about myself and my country.

History will continue to write the story of the American experience. While this past year was a rough one, this next one can be, conversely, more rewarding. We can take stock of our strength as a country that developed breakthrough vaccines to stop the pandemic, we can reinvent our businesses and our economy in ways we couldn’t have envisioned, we can count our blessings for the good fortunes we have – and do more for those who are less fortunate. And we can grieve our losses, collectively and individually, for those who didn’t make it.

And we can lead. With science, with our prosperity, with our values, as the beacon to the world that I was raised to believe we are. There is no greater country than ours, flaws and all. We are a collective of individuals who chose to become a republic. That is the uniqueness of the American experience that makes us the envy of the world. This Fourth of July, I am a humbled and a proud American. I remain in awe.

Happy birthday, America.

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