By Lukas Eggen

I’ve been thinking long and hard about what to write for this. The Fouth of July means so much to this country. And yet, through my 23 years, I’m not sure I’ve ever taken the time to really, really think about what it means to me.

This country is going through major challenges. Questions about privacy, about people’s rights to marry whomever they want and more seem to be rocking this country to its core. Politicians seem more interested in making sure their opponents are torn down, no matter what the cost.

As we celebrate this nation’s independence, perhaps the saddest part is the state of the ideals that this country was built on. I’ve noticed more and more people not really believing the ideals we were taught growing up: That America is the land of the free. That all men are created equal. That while America doesn’t promise you all the success in the world, it does promise you a chance to do what you want in life in the pursuit of happiness. That America is the land of possibilities.

It’s true, we live in an imperfect world. There are numerous issues we can find that remind us of all the difficulties and challenges that lie ahead of us. But I refuse to dwell on them. Not this week.

I am proud to be an American. I am proud to live in a country founded by people not afraid to stand up to one of the most powerful empires in the world. I’m grateful that I live in a country where I’m not written off because of my racial background, or where I have no opportunity to do what I want with my life.

I’m humbled to know that I have opporutunities before me that millions of people around the world will never get the chance to experience. I’m relieved to know that through all the people I’ve met who are lazy, expect things to be given to them, greedy or hurtful, that there are those who boldly represent the best in America.

And I’m honored to be living in a country that means so much to some, that they gave their lives to defend it.

For all the issues this country is facing, this is still the country millions and millions of people try to get into each day.

This is the place where your background doesn’t define your future. Where in a given workplace, you can see an African-American male, an Asian-American woman, and a European male working side-by-side, without so much as a single thought given to how it looks.

Not every American achieves his or her dreams. Life throws things at us that we can’t predict that can take our lives in wildly different directions. And yet, if we truly set our minds to it, no one is there to tell us we can’t chase our dreams. It’s that spirit, that we can do whatever we set our minds to that, in part, has helped us reach for the stars. And in some cases, literally, reach them.

Through all the struggles this country has seen through the decades, the worst thing it can see is if people stop believing in the American dream that anything is possible.

That, while not everyone can succeed, you will have a chance to do what you want with your life. That the principles this country was founded on do mean more than lip service by politicians. That each of us has certain unalienable rights. That they are words to honor, to live by and to remember every single day, not just when the fire works are blasting. That it shouldn’t take a tragedy to bring this country together.

What does the future hold for America? Of course we all wish we had a crystal ball. But I am sure of one thing. America will work its way toward a better future. To borrow from “Man of Steel”, we need to follow those figures who led our country to what it became through the years. We may stumble and we may fall. But in the end, we will stand tall in the sun.

It’s finding those people who can represent the best of what this country represents that will be the difficult part. And it may not be who we expect.

There’s a quote from the show “The Newsroom”, one that stuck with me since I’ve seen it:

“The greater fool is actually an economic term. It’s a patsy. For the rest of us to profit, we need a greater fool— someone who will buy long and sell short. Most people spend their life trying not to be the greater fool; we toss him the hot potato, we dive for his seat when the music stops. The greater fool is someone with the perfect blend of self-delusion and ego to think that he can succeed where others have failed. This whole country was made by greater fools.”

Perhaps it’s the greater fool more people should strive to be like. I’m proud to be an American. And though the country faces challenges on every level, I will always be proud to live in the United States of America.

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