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The Fourth of July is a time to celebrate what the United States of America means to each of us. For me, being American means freedom and opportunity, and I recognize other countries do not afford their citizens the same rights. If we know what matters to us, then we know what is worth protecting. While this summer holiday might feel or look different, we can still come together as a country on July 4 to honor our nation’s independence and the people who sacrificed so that we may live freely.

Since our nation’s birth, Americans relied on fellow brave members of the United States Armed Forces to protect our liberties and nation from foreign and domestic oppressors. For 244 years, Americans have answered the call to serve and defended our freedoms so we can continue celebrating our country, core values, and beliefs. Our rights to pursue happiness, our freedoms of speech and religion and our right to bear arms is the foundation that makes our home unique and exceptional. We can continue to say thank you for those who have served, are serving, and will serve to protect these rights.

While the last three months have been a trying time for many Hoosiers, we can still celebrate all the great achievements we have made, together as a country. This includes our individual work to slow the spread of this new virus – something we have not experienced as a society in a century – to help protect our families, neighbors, and communities. We can also reflect on other milestones that have made our nation the best place to call home like being the first country to put a man on the moon or being the land where anyone can pursue their dreams.

Going forward, we should rely on all the lessons and country-defining accomplishments, as well as our failures, to continue making our country a better place for Americans coast to coast.

Our nation has evolved and grown since its birth, but 244 years later, we still abide by the same constitution written by our Founding Fathers. As we celebrate the holiday this year, keep in mind that the Fourth of July is not just a birthday, and it is not only a celebration of the physical location in which we call home. The Fourth of July is Independence Day. The celebration of the values, freedoms, and liberty that make America unique and exceptional in its place on Earth. Please stay safe while celebrating this Fourth of July.