The following excerpt is from American Patriots: Answering the Call to Freedom by Rick Santorum.
I’ve always felt blessed to have grown up in a home with an immigrant parent whose father brought him to this country in search of freedom and opportunity. As a child, I knew that the people I loved and respected the most had chosen to be Americans. I was told repeatedly that this country wasn’t just a better place than their homeland; it was the best country in the world.
My grandfather came to America in 1923 from the region of northern Italy that had been part of Austria until after World War I. Unlike most Italian immigrants of that time, he didn’t come because of economic hardship—he had a good job working on a mail train. He came because after fighting for a warmongering, erratic leader and being severely wounded on the Russian front, he saw in Benito Mussolini another tyrant in the making. There were other countries in Europe he could have immigrated to where he would have been closer to his eight brothers and sisters, but he chose America. The United States was not just the land of economic opportunity; it was also where people went to be free from such tyrants.
Like millions of other immigrants, my grandfather became an American the moment he walked through the gates of Ellis Island. Had he decided to move to France or Germany, he could have lived there for forty years and still not been considered French or German. From its beginning, the United States has been different from every other country in the history of the world. America is not about birthrights, classes, or bloodlines. We are not a tribe or an ethnic group or a civilization with a long written history on this continent.
America is an ideal—a set of common values that unite us not only as states, but as a people. Those ideals were expressed at the very founding of our country in the Declaration of Independence and reinforced in the United States Constitution.
We rightly revere these documents, but we also need to honor the Patriots who wrote them and the men and women who fought and sacrificed not just to win independence but also to set inspiring examples that would bring these documents—and indeed, our country—to life.
13 Ways to Give Back on Independence Day
1. Support the United Service Organizations (USO).
2. Send a letter or package to a soldier who may not be receiving items from home.
3. Serve a meal at your local soup kitchen or shelter.
4. Help wounded service members through the Wounded Warrior Project.
5. Look into what’s happening in your town or neighboring cities, including charities, races, or community meals.
6. Clean your local elementary school, middle school, or high school.
7. Pick up trash at a local, state, or national park.
8. Read and share the Declaration of Independence.
9. Provide childcare for those who have to work on July 4th.
10. Volunteer at a local homeless shelter.
11. Add a charitable component to your Fourth of July celebration and have guests donate a non-perishable food item to a local food bank.
12. Visit the closest Veterans Hospital or volunteer at your local veteran’s organization.
13. Fly the American flag!
Ideas inspired by Making a Difference: The World of Giving Coming up on Independence Day and 7 Ways to Give Back For America’s B-Day.