By Joseph Castagno | Contributing Writer
Editor’s note: Joseph Castagno wrote this column after the last Plant City July 4 celebration in 2007. We felt it was the perfect sentiment for the celebration’s return in 2012.
The sweet scents of cotton candy and caramel corn dance through the early evening air, mixing with the laughter of children and the murmur of a thousand conversations. The sun begins its descent, and you can feel the anticipation thrumming through the stadium. As the sharp cadence of the color guard recedes, the lights go down, and the first shells burst in a spectacular blaze of color and thunderous sound.
Independence Day, a day of celebration, a day of remembrance, a holiday so simple yet so fraught with the complexities of modern-day politics and the ever-shifting landscape of international policy, should challenge us to examine its true meaning.
In its purest form, we celebrate the courage and perseverance of our forefathers. “We hold these truths to be self evident …”
The power of these words shaped a nation and challenged the greatest imperial power of the time. They also set an inescapable responsibility for us as a people. We can’t embrace our independence if we ignore the balance of our declaration: “That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
We have taken this responsibility and have found opportunity in our history to rally to it: World War II, our vigilance against the communism during the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and, more recently, in the Middle East.
These moral, political, and military battles represent our collective will, but the achievement of our independence was built on the decisions of those men and women who chose to shoulder the burden of not only defeating our imperial masters but also investing themselves in the creation, nurturing and guiding of our country.
Too often, it seems the ideals our Founding Fathers espoused have become the fodder for today’s self-serving political machine. It unfortunately transcends party and pollutes the purity of the democratic process. We must always remind ourselves of those “self-evident truths” and understand the preservation of them is a personal responsibility.
The final rumbles are fading into the distance, and the last vestiges of smoke have cleared, chased across the horizon by a warm breeze. I take my daughter’s hand as we walk to our car, and I rejoice in the fact she will grow up in the greatest country in the world. I promise myself to teach her the history of Independence Day, so she can one day become the conscientious steward of our freedom — the legacy of our citizenship.
Joseph Castagno is president of MedStat Healthcare Services.