Tradition is to celebrate July 4th with fireworks. Big loud explosions of color and light, seen and heard for miles. America loves a spectacle.

But this year, my enthusiasm for our country is not at an all-time high. My faith in our democracy is strained. I tend to believe that history moves in cycles, in pendulum swings, in a rhythm of two steps forward, one step back… So maybe this is normal and natural and will pass. Maybe I needn’t worry so much. 

But I also know that empires fall, and there are some mistakes you can’t undo. 

Well, time will tell. We will vote, we will push for progress, we will raise each generation to do better than the ones before. 

That is the sparkler in my hand tonight. I cannot make great booms in the sky, but I can hold tight to these small lights popping and dancing in the darkness. I can marvel at their brief beauty, and I can believe that it makes a difference. 

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