For over 240 years, Americans have been celebrating the anniversary of their Declaration of Independence. In what has come to be called “the homeland”, the event is marked by a day off from work, hot dogs and hamburgers on the barbecue, baseball games, and parades. And, of course, fireworks!
For Americans overseas, there is likely to be no break from work and, when night falls, few will get to see a re-enactment of “the rockets’ red glare” or the “bombs bursting in air”.
Yet the Fourth of July has profound meaning for Americans overseas. It is the time for Americans to gather, be it at a picnic organised by an American club, a meet-up at a café, or simply at the dinner table. Wherever Americans find themselves on this day – or the cluster of days around the Fourth – it is time to reconnect and to make new friends. It is time to celebrate what it means to be an American. It is a time to give thanks to our Founders and to all of those who have helped and protected America through the years.
Yes, I write about gratitude even though, all too often, Americans overseas are burdened by our home country, in particular by some of the laws that Congress has passed. The overseas consequences of these laws are rarely considered, and their impacts can be severe. Now in my third year as your president, I have heard many horror stories, and I have made several trips to Capitol Hill and other institutions in Washington to lobby on your behalf. It is never easy, and the struggle will continue long after another volunteer takes my place.
So why be grateful? Because we have the right to fight. We have the right to vote in favor of those lawmakers who help Americans overseas and against those who do not. (On that subject, read elsewhere about AARO’s exciting midterm election project.)
Whatever be the politics of the day, the core values of America remain strong: democracy, equality, freedom of the press, the rule of law, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. Those values continue to inspire individuals and influence other countries around the world. What would the world be like if there were no Stars and Stripes? Not a pretty thought. So let us gather together and raise a glass for Old Glory. God bless America.
Neil Kearney, AARO President