For my family, the Fourth of July means picnics, baseball, parades and fireworks.
It's a great time for all of us to come together with the people that make our community so wonderful and also to just spend time with each other. I'm sure many of you are looking forward to the same activities - and also the day off from work.
However, it is important for each and every one of us to look past the bright sparklers, fun festivals and tasty hot dogs to remember what this date signifies. Because of the courage and strength shown by our founding fathers, we have been able to pursue opportunities beyond what any of them could have imagined. We truly live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Ronald Reagan said it best: "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction...it must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."
Would our founding fathers recognize the America they gave their lives for more than 200 years ago in the present day? I certainly hope they would.
Still, polarizing ideologies threaten to destroy the very foundation of our nation if we don't do our part to safeguard the principles carefully outlined by our forefathers in two very important documents - the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
The Declaration of Independence was signed by Congress on July 4, 1776; nearly one year after the beginning of the Revolutionary War. The document represents the importance of this date, but it also represented a breaking point for our young nation - we would fight until we were free, or we would die trying. There is no other nation on Earth with a document that offers a more concise vision of freedom than the Declaration of Independence, and it serves as an everlasting reminder of what "freedom" truly means.
Our nation has reached an unprecedented time in its history where we must make a choice.
We must defend our freedom against all odds or otherwise risk continuing to have our constitutional rights stripped away one by one.
History is our greatest teacher, and if we don't remember the oppressive bonds of our past, it is very possible that our future generations will not understand the true value of freedom. What will you do to protect our freedoms? It can be as simple as upholding freedom over tyranny, responsibility over entitlement and personal responsibility over government control. Endorse and support the core values of our nation, and be the example to future generations.
I also encourage you to reflect on the many sacrifices that our military men and women have made to secure our freedom for future generations on this Independence Day.
Freedom is never free, and often comes at a high cost. Our nation's military forces are currently risking their lives every day to defend your freedom, and their selfless sacrifice is the true reason we live in a free society today.
As the Lee Greenwood song goes: "I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free. And I won't forget the men who died, who gave that right to me."
Keep this lyric close in mind and in heart as you celebrate Independence Day with friends and family this year.
I hope each and every one of you has a safe and happy Fourth of July this year.
Sen. Steve Gooch serves as chairman of the transportation committee. He represents the 51st Senate District, which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties. He may be reached at (404) 656-9221 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.