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Dear America, happy birthday! If I may be so forward as to say so, you are the prettiest 244-year-old I have ever seen. Now, don't blush at that; you deserve it. I know you probably aren't hearing that very often these days, but I say it unashamedly.

I don't really remember the first time I laid eyes on you. After all, I was just a baby when I was born here, and memories of those days of infancy are, well, gone. But I do remember pretty early on in life getting to know you. All of my family adored you, and they came from all over the place, yet thought you were the tops. My teachers let it be known in no uncertain terms that you were amazing. My pastor smiled and cried every time the national anthem was played. Shoot, even folks on TV back then sang your praises!

Things seem to have changed a lot, I know.

But to me, you have only grown more beautiful as the years have gone by. I am 50 years old now, and I still grin when I get a bicentennial quarter. I still have every one I got as a kid.

I hear a lot of things about you these days that I want you to know that I know are not true. I hear a lot of people calling you the most racist nation on Earth. I get mad when I hear that, because the evidence says just the opposite. You elected a black man to be your leader not once, but twice. Canada has never done that even once. Nor, for that matter has Mexico or Japan or China or France or Germany or Spain or Italy or Russia or Sweden or Denmark. No European country at all has, in fact, nor have any Asian countries, nor have any but a small handful of Latin American countries done so. You have also had black (and women) secretaries of state, Supreme Court justices, attorneys general, senators, congressmen, governors, police chiefs, the list could go on forever. And that's just politics. Please don't get me started into listing doctors, lawyers, military leaders, authors, stars, CEOs, clergy, professors, coaches and so forth.

But not just blacks. You have equally been the land of opportunity for literally every other ethnicity on Earth, including me, the "only one of my tribe." Simply put, there is no one quite like you. Sure, you have your share of racists and other idiots. Every country does. But you, dear America, are the best, the least racist land on the planet. You didn't start so well on that one, but you sure did make up for lost time in these last 155 years.

I also appreciate the unique freedoms you afford us all. I really, really enjoy getting to go to church and worship without interference. I also like that freedom of the press thing, even though a lot of them seem more like political pompom wavers than actual journalists. Still, it beats the heck out of Pravda. Oh, and the Second Amendment? Genius, sheer genius. "Bad guy with gun bursts into Texas church with more that 240 congregants hoping to massacre everyone, gets taken down with one shot to the head from a guy named Jack." You would have doubtless had scores of 6-foot-deep holes in your soil out there if those folks had had to helplessly wait for law enforcement to respond.

Thank you also for being the best place ever for people to go from rags to riches. One of the sweetest old men I ever knew, one of my now deceased church members, lost his dad at 1 year old, and he and his 10 siblings were raised by their single mother. They had absolutely nothing. And yet he worked hard, saved, invested and became wildly successful. I'm sure you know that all day every day people of every ethnicity from all over the world are trying to get here, knowing that "the American dream" is still possible for anyone to achieve.

I can be in the mountains in half an hour or at the beach in four hours. You have the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, and you invented the cheeseburger. The cheeseburger! That all by itself makes you gorgeous.

You crossed an ocean to beat back the Nazis. You were the first in flight, and the only footprints on the moon thus far belong to your people. Polio was killing or paralyzing more than half a million people worldwide a year, and you, America, developed the vaccine that stopped it in its tracks.

You gave us Billy Graham and Michael Jordan and all of the music from the '80s.

Above all, you gave us all of the little churches dotting our landscape, with preachers faithfully proclaiming the Gospel of Christ. I got saved because of that, and now I am the preacher telling others the good news.

Well, I have to go for now, America. But please know that I thank God every day for you, and I really do love you. And I suspect that a whole bunch of others still love you just as much as I do.

Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at 2knowhim@cbc-web.org.

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Pastor Bo Wagner
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