This Fourth of July, we expect you’ll be celebrating. It’s what folks in Topeka do, and we’re pretty darn good at it.
That means spending time with friends and family, good food and — of course — lighting a few fireworks. Take care today, though, to respect everyone in our community as you set off those explosive displays. They can be loud and alarming, and, of course, dangerous to those same friends and family members, if you don’t exercise safety and caution.
If you want to see how the experts do it, there’s always the awe-inspiring Spirit of Kansas display at Lake Shawnee, where a day of events culminates in spectacular fashion. If it’s not on your list of events today already, you’re going to be missing out.
More broadly, the Fourth of July has always been about balancing contradictory truths.
That is, we love fireworks but acknowledge they can be dangerous if handled irresponsibly. Likewise, this spectacular country offer unparalleled freedom and opportunity — but has a history with many dark alleys where citizens weren’t afforded that freedom or opportunity. It’s not an either-or proposition; both things can be true.
So while we celebrate today, while we drink and eat and laugh and ooh and ahh, we have to understand that these good times come at a price. Our veterans, to name one group, have sacrificed immeasurably to keep America a going concern. Those who fought to end slavery, to advance equality and equity, including many in Topeka itself, likewise deserve tributes.
The promise of this country is an impressive thing. Whatever one’s feeling about the immigration controversy now roiling our politics, just pause for a moment to think about how remarkable it is that so many people from around the globe want to be American. They want to be here, as did our ancestors.
This country is greater than any single state, any single leader, any single era. We’re not just pomp and circumstance and fireworks displays — as fun as those are. We are a teeming multitude of views and backgrounds, of conflict and agreement, of pushing and pulling.
Above all, perhaps, we are a country of ideals. And if your celebrations today ever threaten to veer off into agitated, conflicted territory, just remember those idealistic, nearly impossible dreams that birthed this country.
Or in the words of Lincoln: “a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”