Happy 244th birthday America!

The Fourth of July is observed as a celebration of our independence from Britain. Although our independence wasn’t official until after the American Revolution ended, the Declaration of Independence was formally adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. Brave men took pen in hand and signed the document that is the foundation of our freedoms.

Our founding fathers created a system of government that was then — and is now — a model of democracy. That framework created by the Declaration of Independence still works well after all these years.

That guideline for our country was penned 244 years ago and is still in working order. Over time, the Declaration of Independence has been modified with amendments. But that document stands today as the basis for the freedoms we all enjoy.

July 4 represents independence and freedom. As we feast on hot dogs, hamburgers and potato chips Friday, we should remember that the freedoms we so deeply value are the result of hard-fought victories. There have been many times in our country’s history when our freedom has been challenged — yet we, as a nation, have stood strong.

The Fourth of July is a day for celebration for all of us, whether we stand among the blessed or the distressed. We have the freedom to live how we choose, the freedom to celebrate our country and, most importantly, the freedom to fight for change.

We tend to take that freedom for granted, when all we have to do is look at the news most nights and see what happens in places where they don’t enjoy the blessings of liberty and where the will of a few is forced upon the many.

The Fourth of July is more far than a day off of work to spend with family and friends. It is more than fireworks in the night sky. The Fourth of July is a day for us to remember that no matter our differences, we are all alike in one way — we are all Americans.

John Adams, the second president of the United States, summed up his feeling about the Fourth of July in a letter written to his wife, Abigail. “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God almighty,” he wrote. “It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward, forever more.”

The words of President Adams continue to inspire and give today’s Americans a collective sense of great patriotic pride.