As a tenth grader, I remember sitting in my science teacher’s classroom and hearing people freak out because something insane had happened. A plane filled with people I never met had crashed into a tower I knew nothing about in a city I had never visited, yet I still felt a great sense of loss and pain. Never had our freedom and our way of life been threatened like this. That day, a group of extremists took something from us, security. They decided to send a message and many innocent Americans paid the price for it. Since then I began to truly take notice of the day commemorating our independence.

As the years went on and I grew older and wiser, I began to understand what this day truly meant, and what it means to me. It is a day of birth, of love, of sacrifice, of determination and perseverance. On July 4th, 1776 a group of rebels decided that tyranny was not to be tolerated any longer, and cut the umbilical cord from the mother (England). That day, freedom was born in the hearts and minds of Americans. You see, freedom is not a tangible thing; it is not physical, it is not a piece of paper, but an idea. No man or government can give freedom, because freedom is in the hearts and minds of those who seek it. In Braveheart, Malcolm Wallace (the father of William Wallace) tells young William, “Your heart is free. Have the courage to follow it.” Independence and liberty are tangible, but freedom is in the mind, because it is an idea. That day, an idea was born into the fabric of this country.

Independence Day also commemorates love and sacrifice. Often times, you hear those two words linked, because it is quite difficult to separate them. Love cannot be exclusive from sacrifice, because we always make sacrifices for those we love. Love is not self seeking (I read that somewhere). Love is sacrificial, and that sacrifice has been seen and felt everyday since July 4th, 1776. Various wars have been fought, loved ones lost, hours spent, blood, sweat and tears shed, backs broken, shoulders burdened and hands tied in order that our liberty be upheld. This is a day to celebrate and reflect on the sacrifice and love of the many members of the armed forces who have put their lives on the lines time and time again for the idea we spoke of earlier.

Finally, our nation’s birthday also celebrates determination and perseverance. I’m not sure if any of us can truly comprehend this, but maintaining life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not easy tasks. We may not always agree with the choices our government has made, or with the stance of a certain party or politician. We may be discouraged with events that have transpired in the last 300 plus years, we may even become disillusioned, but one thing we must never be is ungrateful. Throughout the last 300 plus years, our liberty has come under attack, our freedom challenged, our way of life threatened, yet we have endured. Our leaders have been given a heavy task, and instead of pointing fingers and getting discouraged, we could have our voices heard by writing to our local congressperson. You never know how much of an impact your letter may have. Determination and perseverance worked for our forefathers, and they can work for us, if we stay true, ethical, considerate, and have the proper motivation.

Here are some reflections from other CBT College employees:

Jean Varela, Collection Specialist

“The 4th of July means a lot of different things to me…a time to be grateful to those who sacrificed their freedom, so that I might have mine. A time to pay homage to those who gave their lives as the ultimate price in the name of freedom, and a time to remember those who were scarred and maimed, some physically, all mentally…while fighting for that freedom. It is a time to think about the high cost of this freedom and the fact that FREEDOM IS NOT FREE.”

Stephanie Robinson, Career Services Representative

“It means that I have the freedom to pursue whatever I want and the only limits are the ones I set for myself. “

Christina Parodi, Education Outreach Liaison

“Independence Day represents the freedom I receive as a citizen that my brother fought for in Vietnam and makes me immensely proud of his courage and that he came home safe.”

Stephanie Etter, Program Development Specialist

“I am only second generation American, so 4th of July was always a big celebration growing up. My grandparents were so proud of their citizenship and loved the idea of having a way to celebrate their country’s independence. So, while I still celebrate our freedom and independence, I also celebrate my family and try to carry on the tradition.”

So, as we get ready to celebrate on July 4th of 2011, my hope is that we remember the love and sacrifice that has gone into our liberty to celebrate; that we may remember to be strong and endure whatever hardships may be presented to us, because it’s always dark before the dawn, and that we keep the idea of freedom alive in our hearts.

Happy Birthday USA!