Monday night:

Dear Reader,
I have written the following thoughts down and want to share them with you as I consider you a friend. Please realize when I say "friend" I mean my family as well.

Ode to My Friends: You are America

As we celebrate the birth of our country, I find myself thinking about this wonderful society we live in. Although many people are worried our rights are being affected (for the worse) in America, I find myself grateful for all we have.

I realize it is my friendships that show I am truly an American. My friends are good people - not perfect, for who is? Good people just trying to do their best to live the best way they can, helping others when they can. I love them all.

I have friends who are arch-conservatives; friends who are ultra-liberal. I have friends who are somewhere in the middle. I love them all. The United States of America accepts them all.

I have friends who are union men and women; I have friends who hate unions. I have friends who protested the Vietnam war, and those who fought hard in the same war as others were protesting. I love them all. The United States of America accepts them all.

I have international friends; I have local friends. I have friends with whom I have traveled abroad, and marveled at other countries. I love them all. The United States of America accepts them all.

If one of my friends brings up some subject they are adament about and I don't agree with them, there are three ways I deal with it. I gently disagree with them, change the subject or - if I don't feel up to a disagreement - just nod and let it go. My friends are entitled, as Americans, to have their opinion and to express that opinion. As an American, I accept this (also knowing I have the same privilege), and love them as they are.

I don't like people who lie to me or try to hurt me in some way, but I have learned to let it go and not let their problems become my problems. I am free to do this in America. Surrounded by my friends, I realize how fortunate I am.

I am happy I live in a country where I don't have to pick and choose my friends based on their beliefs - which must align with a dictator's beliefs. I would have far fewer friends if I had to like, and associate with, only people of a certain political stance or religious belief. My life would be much less enriched.

This openness that is allowed and encouraged in America transfers to perfect strangers. Last year I started talking with a young man who said he was at Northwestern Law School. He worked with Bernadette Dorn who now is working to free young, underprivileged people wrongfully accused of a crime. That famous Bernadette. I did not, nor do not, condone or agreed with what Bernadette has done in the past, but perhaps today she is atoning for her mistakes of the past. I nodded and praised Bernadette as this young gentleman talked. I am thrilled that in America, one can change; one is allowed to change to go on to stand up for the downtrodden. America gives us the right to change - for the better.

My friends - and perfect strangers - represent an array of people from all walks of life, from all social strata, from all ideologies, from all races. They are America.

You, dear friend, are America.

Thank you to all my dear friends for making me aware of your wide-range of beliefs, thoughts and c ares. All of you embody America. With all of you as my friends, I am America, too.

Happy Birthday, America!



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