Soon, Mainers will be gathering across our state — from Belfast to Bridgton, Caribou to Kittery — to celebrate our Independence Day. When they do, they will be joining together to celebrate the founding of a nation that has meant much to the world over its 238 years of existence. As a nation, the United States has had a greater impact on the world in a shorter period of time than any other in history, and Americans ought to be proud of that. We ought to celebrate the improbable victory of a group of ragtag colonials over the most powerful empire in the world at the time. As a nation, we have much in our history to make us proud.
However, we have much more to celebrate than our history, or the mere fact that we are lucky enough to live in the greatest nation in the world. It’s not our economic success, or our military might, or our peace and stability that make America a great nation. America is much more than just a nation; we are not simply a collection of people living together in a place on a map. America is an idea, not just a place, and as we come together to celebrate Independence Day, we must keep this in mind.
America represents much more to the rest of the world than simply the products we sell, or the foreign policy with which they may or may not agree. America represents the idea of liberty, of independence, of freedom, of human rights, and of democracy. This isn’t to say that all of those are American ideas originally; they are not. However, it was America that first saw the potential for greatness in these ideas, adopted them, and made them work. America took these ideas, made them work in a way nobody ever had, then exported them around the world. That is why, today, when people around the world think of democracy, they think of America. When they think of human rights, of freedom, they think of America.
Our greatest export isn’t Coca-Cola, or McDonald’s, or iPhones. Our greatest export is America.
The American Revolution was fought for these ideas; it was these ideas that allowed us to triumph over Great Britain. It was these ideas that brought 13 disparate colonies — and men and women from all walks of life — together in one cause. It was these ideas that led our Founding Fathers to sign the Declaration of Independence one steamy summer day in 1776.
The American Revolution was not just a series of military battles fought centuries ago. Rather, the American Revolution is ongoing, as we continually strive to improve our nation. Today our American Revolution is being fought not with force of arms, but with the ideas our nation is founded upon, every day, all over the country.
America is not like every other nation in the world: We are a nation founded on ideas, not on geography or religion or ethnicity. That is why we are able to incorporate so many different races and religions without our identity as Americans being compromised. That is why our great diversity — of thought as much as anything else — makes us stronger, rather than driving us apart.
This is what makes us exceptional, this is what we should celebrate this Independence Day, and this is what should make us proud to be Americans: the idea of America. It is an idea that has served as a beacon of light in the world for centuries, and it will for centuries to come — as long as we all work together to keep it lit.