When our forefathers declared their small section of the world as a free country, they had many goals in mind. They hoped for prosperity and a life free of domain by their mother country, England.

Throughout the 243 year history of this nation, there have been numerous interpretations of what those goals initially outlined by our founding fathers actually meant.

Despite the many problems that face our nation, the United States of America remains the beacon of light for individual freedoms. That is one reason why we have so many immigrants attempting to enter our country - whether it be legal or illegal. That is why we have highly educated doctors and scientists and other professionals leaving their native land to come to share their expertise to improve the health and sanctity of the entire world. The fact that many countries offer free health care to their citizens is another drawing point - professionals can land a high paying income bracket in America that is not available in many other countries.

We sometimes overlook the fact that many of our successes as a nation were the result of numerous trial-and-error procedures. We have embarked on defending the world from tyranny and injustice; we have sent men into space and to the moon; we have lead the way for freedom in oppressed countries where mass slaughters of innocent people were commonplace.

Yet, we as Americans - with our freedom of speech and liberties unavailable in many other countries - tend to focus on the negative rather than appreciate the positives. There is a constant discord among our political parties and the debate of civil rights and individual rights. Many people interpret "freedom of speech" as the right to voice their concern but are unwilling to respect the rights of others to express their differing opinions. We talk about individual rights, but we only see the issues that concern us personally.

To say our country does not have issues to deal with would be a blatant mistruth. To say we should always seek improvement and fairness is an understatement. We should always strive to correct the injustices and improve the quality of life for all people - not just in our own corner of the world.

Lee Greenwood worded it best in his classic song, "God Bless the USA." I am one who is proud to be an American. I am proud of being an Kentuckian. And I am proud that I am from London, Kentucky.

Like any other town, we also have issues and improvements that can be made. But those of us who participated in our city's celebration of Independence Day last weekend have witnessed the dedication of leaders and volunteers who strive to make those improvements. Phil and Lisa Smith, Sharon Benge and Chris Robinson did an outstanding job organizing the first-ever Lights Over London on Friday night and the annual Red White and Boom on Saturday. Entertainment was at its finest and the view of hundreds of lanterns lighting up the skies of London and Laurel County was a beautiful sight. The annual Independence Day celebration in London, Kentucky took on a new venture - with great success. These events were funded by the City of London and the City of London Tourist Commission, with some help from other local agencies and businesses.

It takes a large group to plan and organize large-scale events. It takes planning, money and dedication to pull off such an event. London has been key in originating new events - from the first World Chicken Festival 30 years ago to the first-ever downtown New Year's Eve Party and most recently, the Lights Over London event. Our leaders are willing to take steps to improve the quality of life that we residents can enjoy if we will only take advantage of those opportunities.

London, Kentucky can compete with much larger cities with its entertainment and opportunities, both in business, education and social events. In fact, we not only compete, we excel. Each of us should appreciate the dedication of our local leaders in their progressiveness and foresight. We have outstanding businesses who are recognized by their peers, our school system celebrated several "firsts" this past academic year, adding to the success of our educational system and those who dedicate themselves to furthering the futures of our children and our community.

As we celebrate our country's birthday tomorrow, let's remember the struggles of those who first came to this country and the hardships they faced. Let's remember our founding fathers and their desire to make this a country where people wanted to live. Let's remember our military personnel who have given their hearts, souls and lives to keep these freedoms in place for each and every one of us. Let's remember our medical and emergency personnel who hold the fate of lives in their hands every day. Let's forget our problems and remember why we have this day to celebrate - an opportunity that millions of people across the world envy.

Happy Birthday USA and God Bless America!

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