Delaney: Celebrating America

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(Host) Commentator and former Republican State Senator Dennis Delaney is looking beyond our 4th of July celebrations to what really makes us exceptional as a nation.

(Delaney) Even the hardest heart would melt at the way we Vermonters celebrate the Fourth of July: the parades with the little folks on their bikes, the oom-pah-pah of community bands, and in many places the night sky sprinkled with a glorious rainbow of fireworks, accompanied by the “ahs” and “ohs” of the crowd below.

Celebrating the Fourth of July in the warm hug of summer is a very American thing to do. Relishing the joys of our Independence Day reinforces our collective identity, and it makes us happy; but it’s just a small part of what makes us unique.

And that quality, for many, has always been due to the fact that America offered a chance at a better life. All that chance needs is takers. My own Irish grandparents who immigrated here took that chance. They embodied that dream to reach out and up for a better life. While still in Ireland my grandfather sold the family’s cows at market and used the money to book passage to America. And I’m happy to say that, once here, he quickly earned what he had borrowed and sent it back.

Hispanic immigrants from below our southern border follow the same pattern. They grab opportunity’s first rung, and up they go on the ladder.

Yet it’s our Constitution, our governing document, a work of genius, and especially its Bill of Rights, that makes this possible and defines our national identity. Its words are simple and yet so profound. The Constitution sets up protective boundaries between a government and its people – boundaries that are virtually impossible for the government to cross.

Flip the coin to see it another way. Each of us is free to speak his mind, dissent, assemble, and the government cannot stop us. And this is because the beginning of the Bill of Rights protects us with this language: “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech….” Those words go back to 1791, and they are as powerful and protective today as they were then, and maybe more so.

Then there’s the Constitution’s 14th Amendment that further shaped our character when it was called into play in 1954. The amendment is the basis for the Supreme Court decision called Brown versus Board of Education. It ended segregation in our country. In 1791 brilliant minds said that this – that we are all equal – is what America would be about. And, while it took us a long time, we finally got there.

I fully expect the fireworks on the Fourth and the local band playing the National Anthem will give me goose bumps; but I’ll remember the idealism of our founders in 1791, who gave us our Constitution and Bill of Rights – words that shape and define us as Americans.

Happy Fourth!

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