July 4 – More than a BBQ… by U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson

This Fourth of July weekend, thousands of Texans will gather with family and friends, fire up the grill, ice down some drinks and sit back and enjoy one of our nation’s favorite holidays, Independence Day. In 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed, there were 2.5 million people living in the 13 colonies. Today, there are more than 293 million Americans inhabiting 50 states, who will celebrate the founding of our great nation. And the Declaration that secured our independence still stands as the foundation of our democracy.

This quintessentially American celebration gives each of us an opportunity to commemorate the birth of our country and reflect on the day when dedicated patriots founded a nation based on freedom. Marquis De Lafayette, the Frenchman who was so moved by the American quest for independence, he crossed the Atlantic to join our battle said it this way, “Humanity has won its battle. Liberty now has a country.”

For 228 years now, America has been synonymous with liberty. It is rooted in our heart and soul. It is woven into the fabric of our being. As a current television advertisement states, “‘Don’t fence us in’, is practically our national motto.” We are the embodiment of freedom to people everywhere, which is why thousands of people still arrive from the far reaches of the globe on our shores each year. They come in search of a better life for their families and a greater hope for their future.
So, the Fourth of July is more than a birthday party – it is a celebration of our hard-fought freedom and our God-given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is also a time to honor those who continue the battle against terror and oppression to keep our freedom secure.

Today we are engaged in a struggle as fierce and as vital as any our nation has faced in its short history. Today’s war on terrorism is a fight for freedom.

American soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq face the modern threat of terrorism. But while the tactics are more violent, the motives more insidious and the means more destructive, this enemy shares the common goal of all enemies throughout history: destroying freedom. We must not – and we will not – let them win.

Last year, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld addressed our troops on the Fourth of July, saying, “You are the men and women who are fighting this new war. Your gallantry and courage in the face of evil has stirred the souls of all Americans. Day after day, week after week, they have seen your faces and read your stories. They have shared your sorrows and celebrated your victories. And in each one of you they see reflected their deeply-felt honor, pride and patriotism. Through your valor and sacrifice, our Republic has been strengthened and renewed.”

I could not agree more. Our troops, many of whom call Texas home, face a difficult and challenging task, yet they do it with bravery and with honor. I have visited them in the battlefields and I have seen their commitment firsthand. They know the gravity of their mission and the importance of their success. These proud patriots serve with distinction and deserve our gratitude.

This year, remember that it’s more than a backyard BBQ, red-white-and-blue streamers, downtown parade or fireworks display – the Fourth of July is a celebration of the freedoms afforded to us as citizens of the United States of America. This year, as you set out to enjoy your holiday take a moment to remember those who are sacrificing their personal safety, and even their lives, so that you may enjoy yours.

God Bless America and Happy Fourth of July.