No matter our political affiliations, religious belief or status in life, the Fourth of July is an opportunity to celebrate our unique history as a nation and our constitutional freedom to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in America. We should never take those rights for granted.

On the Fourth of July, my mind returns to my childhood and the family gatherings that took place every year in the city park in Blair, Nebraska. Blair was 15 miles from the farm on which I grew up and it was the location of the closest swimming pool. It was a big deal for me and all of my cousins to go swimming in town, rather than in a river, pond or watering tank meant for cattle. Every year, I would urge my parents to finish their outdoor chores and indoor cooking earlier so that we could be the first kids in the pool and enjoy more time playing before our picnic dinner. After all, we only went swimming in town once a year.

My family members were all farmers, and my mother and all the other ladies were great cooks. The Fourth of July was a chance to sample favorite recipes from each of their kitchens. Fried chicken, meat loaf, barbecued beef, deviled eggs, potato salad, fruit salad and at least a half dozen varieties of pie filled four picnic tables. Then we would play games until dark as we waited anxiously for what we were sure would be the best fireworks display we had ever seen. On the drive home, my sisters and I would fall asleep in the back seat from exhaustion and a full stomach.

The Fourth of July has always been about families, picnics, outdoor games and fireworks. Old fashioned values and old fashioned family gatherings that never go out of style, and give us the opportunity to salute the United States of America as the greatest country on earth.

Today, I’m not going to spend any time or energy on growing our economy or on building a better community or state. That can wait until Thursday. Today is a day to celebrate the birthday of America the beautiful and I am going to pretend that I am still a young farm boy in Nebraska and unaware that there are cares in the world about which I should be concerned. Happy Birthday America!