I rather liked this piece at TCS by Ralph Kinney Bennett:
Then we'll eat and laugh, shielding ourselves from the heat of the fire with our free hand while holding our hot dog roasting sticks in the other. When the darkness finally begins to gather we'll throw another log on the fire, toast marshmallows and sit back to watch the fireworks rising in the sky over Conneaut Lake Park, just a half mile across the water.
It is unlikely there will be any discussions of the meaning of liberty or reflections on the Declaration of Independence and the men who signed it. No history lessons or patriotic readings. We'll just relax and joke and maybe sing a little, and after the fireworks we'll look at the stars as we herd sleepy grandchildren back to our cottages or drive home to tumble into bed to the sound of the last few firecrackers and bottle rockets.
That's the whole point of it, you know. The whole point. To be so free, so much a part of something unique and strong and wonderful, so safe inside that wonderful thing called the United States, that you really don't even have to think about it.
In the smell of that cook fire, in the giggles and shouts as the fireworks lace the night sky, in the warmth of old friendships, in all the unshadowed freedom of the moment, lies the essence of what we celebrate.
It seems too simple and almost irreverent somehow, this unspoken yet grateful intuition about liberty and independence. But it's really the sublime culmination of all the dreams and sacrifices of our forefathers -- this happy gathering for no other purpose than to enjoy the blessing of being Americans.
Not a day has gone by since I was in my teens (and that's a long time ago) that I have not been thankful for being born an American. Many take it for granted, and the liberty that goes along with it, but I am fortunate to have had grandparents who understood what it was not to be free; and who endured much to come to this country and avail themselves of the freedom and opportunity it offers.
May you all have a "happy gathering" today, and may the blessings of liberty always be yours!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AMERICA !