There is no other country like the United States of America - though the world undoubtedly would be a better place if there were!
We reflect on that fact today more than on perhaps any other day of the year. That's because today is the 235th anniversary of the signing of America's Declaration of Independence - and the birth of our magnificent country!
On July 4, 1776, our nation broke away from oppressive British rule and embarked on a journey toward becoming the greatest country in the history of the world.
Today, there is plenty of evidence of that greatness:
The United States is a land of enormous economic might - even if we also unfortunately have an enormous problem with excessive spending and debt.
Militarily, no nation in the world matches the strength or technological superiority of our armed forces.
Culturally, American films, TV shows and music (good and sometimes bad) as well as an array of consumer goods are distributed around the world and eagerly snapped up by vast foreign populations.
All of that is wonderful, of course, and a source of national pride. But what's at the root of America's success in so many areas? Success doesn't "just happen," after all.
The short answer is liberty - the liberty for which our Founding Fathers as well as "ordinary" Americans of their day, and many since, sacrificed so much.
America remains wealthy and powerful and admired in many ways because it has remained free.
Under our marvelous Constitution, we are guaranteed a number of rights, including freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the right to due process. Our property rights are protected as well. Individual liberties, coupled with limited government and respect for the rule of law, have set the stage in this nation for unparalleled economic expansion and the "pursuit of happiness."
Those admirable traits also continue to make the United States a nation to which countless millions from around the globe would love the chance to come. Our country often receives heavy criticism from foreign enemies and even allies, but when the people of the world get to "vote with their feet," many of them try to come to the United States - legally or otherwise.
Of course, our virtues do not mean, and have never meant, that the United States is perfect. Patriotism does not require us to turn a blind eye to our country's misdeeds. We painfully recall the scourge of slavery, which endured for many decades beyond our country's founding. In more recent times, we have watched with alarm as the size and power of the federal government have dangerously grown far beyond the wise boundaries set out by the Constitution. The result is a national debt that threatens our economic strength.
There are other serious problems as well, and it is right - and indeed patriotic - for Americans to seek to return our nation to the right path when it strays.
But despite our flaws, this remains the freest nation on Earth. It is a place where hard work and individual initiative still propel millions into prosperity, and where one's station in life need not be unjustly determined - as it often is in some countries - by factors such as family background.
That is a legacy of which we as Americans can be proud, and for which we should be grateful - especially today.
Happy Independence Day, America!