Every day of my life, I give thanks for being an American. I had nothing to do with where I was born, but I am grateful for this accident of birth. I mean no disrespect to any other country.
I am thankful that we are free to worship or not to worship as we choose. I salute the flag. I proudly recite The Pledge of Allegiance, and my spine tingles with the sounds of our national anthem, Carnell writes.
I was born into a working-class family in upstate South Carolina. My parents were the salt of the earth. They worked hard to earn a living and to make a home for my sister and me.
My parents were the kind of people who made this the great country that it is. They believed in the American dream and they instilled that belief in the two of us. They taught us that all honest work is honorable. They taught us to respect ourselves and that all people are God's children.
My wife was born into poverty in West Virginia. Most would have said that she had no chance for a successful life.
A caring public school teacher saw her potential and inspired her to want more for herself. Both of us received good public school educations.
Both of us enjoyed wonderful, successful careers and, after different paths, we found each other later in life. Neither of us could have had the lives we have enjoyed any place else in the world.
I am proud that my country is still striving for that more perfect union. I am proud that we elected an African-American as president, but I will be just as happy when we elect a woman or a Hispanic. I will be even happier when those qualifiers are not even mentioned.
Think about the unusual opportunity this year to choose between a Mormon Christian and an evangelical Christian as president of our blessed country. One grew up in poverty and the other in a world of privilege, but both are on the national stage.
Both are honorable men with exemplary family lives. Freedom and opportunity still ring from every hilltop and valley.
I am thankful that we are free to worship or not to worship as we choose. I salute the flag. I proudly recite The Pledge of Allegiance, and my spine tingles with the sounds of our national anthem.
In the words of the country song, "I am proud to be an American." My heart aches when our government abandons our time-honored values of just treatment of our enemies.
I pray without shame, "God bless America." I pray for our leaders and for those who protect us at home and abroad.
I pray that we will always be that land that proudly proclaims, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." We are a nation of immigrants, and our society has profited from the contributions of all those who came.
As we celebrate Independence Day, give thanks for all of those who gave their lives that you and I could enjoy this great land of freedom. Give thanks for those who strive every day to make this a more perfect union. Give thanks for those whose political opinions are different from yours because that means that we are still free to disagree and to express those disagreements.
I did not ask anyone's permission to write or publish this article and there are no guards outside my door. I can read whatever I choose to read and I can travel whenever and wherever I choose without interference.
On this Independence Day and every day of my life, I am blessed to be an American, and I am grateful for the privileges and responsibilities that go with being a good citizen.
Mitch Carnell is a consultant specializing in interpersonal and organizational communication. He is the editor of "Christian Civility in an Uncivil World." He and his wife are active lay members of First Baptist Church of Charleston, S.C. Mitch blogs at MitchCarnell.com.