What the Fourth of July means to me.
It was June of 1990, 29 years ago. I remember every second. It was my proudest moment as an American. My now-husband Stephen and I had moved to Eastern Europe to seek our fortune with the emerging capitalists across Eastern Europe. We arrived in Sophia, Bulgaria. Plopped in, like Forrest Gump, we were not fully aware of the history playing out before our eyes. The Bulgarians were preparing for their first free election since 1931 later that month. They had courageously dumped their long time, hard-line Communist dictator a few months earlier. There was a giddiness of optimism in the air. Stephen was tired but I wanted to go out to explore the city. I met a group of college students at a coffee shop, after chatting about Iron Maiden and the availability of jeans in the USA, the kids invited me to go to a movie with them.
It was "Working Girl" starring Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, and Sigourney Weaver. The film opens with a majestic helicopter scene of the Statue of Liberty with stirring music and the New York City skyline.
From the first flicker of Lady Liberty in the harbor, almost as if it was choreographed, but utterly spontaneously, the people in the theater stood. These Bulgarians--tasting public freedom--yelled and applauded at the image. I was dumbfounded, not understanding what was happening. I whispered to one of the students who said, "WE ARE FREE. LIKE AMERICA. IT IS WHAT WE HAVE DREAMED ABOUT!"
I tried to not let the students see me weep, for Bulgaria and for my beloved country. The shining city on the hill.
As Ronald Reagan, who no longer seems to me as incompetent as he once did, said in his farewell address.
"America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere. I've spoken of the Shining City all my political life. In my mind, it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still."
May America forever be that place where both the free and enslaved across the world look for hope, freedom and justice.