I am on vacation, visiting my parents in Virginia, just named the most patriotic state in the union. So glad my beloved South Carolina ranked in the top ten. The fourth of July is just two days away and I anticipate it much like a child anticipates Christmas. I grew up in a military family, patriotism was a daily influence and Independence Day was the yearly celebration of all being a patriot stood for. My daddy was an officer in the United States Army. He was an engineer who served in Vietnam and held many command posts in his career including command of the First Engineer Battalion of the famed and storied Big Red One division. I grew up on bases all around this country and even in Europe. I thrilled at the tradition of Taps, the care of the flag and the soldiers in uniform. Even today I am in awe of firework displays as if I were seeing them for the first time. A patriotic song can stir my soul and even bring a tear to my eye. One of the things I love about teaching school is the daily ritual of saying the pledge of allegiance and singing one of our many patriotic songs, You’re a Grand Old Flag being one of my favorites. I use a lot of red white and blue in my decorating and I even have a box of July decorations I greet at the end of June like old friends. I am grateful daily for the sacrifices of the many men and women who have served this country in and out of uniform. I love our collective efforts to move our country forward, improving and striving for the ideals our forefathers set out in the constitution. We can be a shining example for the world if we work together (If only congress understood that) and if we learn from the sins of our past. I must say Charleston was the shining example of this with the Mother Emmanuel Church Shooting, I am so proud of my community for that. Some may call me an idealist for imagining the country and dare I extend my imaginings to the world as a place where all lives are respected and supported to reach their potential, all have their basic needs of food, shelter, safety and medical care met. I also imagine a place where all are literate, educated and engaged in the communities in which they live. A place where the separation of church and state does not mean the absence of church but rather the tolerance for all religions and churches being free to worship without government interference and government be able to function without religion’s interference. This is one of the greatest themes from our forefathers. In America we have a society where all this is possible, our example can be the light for the world. Our forefathers loved this country so much they were willing to die for it. I have ancestors on both sides that did their duty in the revolutionary war. Many of them were the children of men and women who came to the colonies in the 1600’s to seek religious freedom. Also among my ancestors are a few immigrants who understood the promise America held and they left their homeland of Scotland and took a chance on a new life. So after the parades, hot dogs and apple pie and amidst the fireworks and sparklers I plan to take a few moments and reflect on my love of this great nation and how I can do my part to continue to build her up towards our ideals. Celebrate the Fourth with enthusiasm and capture that spirit of hope to carry you through another year in the greatest country on the planet.