Every year on the Fourth of July, my husband and I invite a few friends to join us as we take a boat out onto the choppy waters of the Hudson, and drop anchor near the foot of the Statue of Liberty to watch our city's fireworks. Phil pilots this annual journey, as well as plays DJ, with a large supply of distinctly American music piped over the boat's sound system -- from Gershwin and Ray Charles to Sousa and the national anthem.
But it's when we arrive at the Statue itself that all of us momentarily take a breath. It's impossible to be so close to the lady of the harbor without realizing that she was the very first vision of America that millions of immigrants would behold -- including my grandparents. They had fled poverty and hopelessness in Lebanon, and there they stood on the deck of a steamer and gazed in wonder -- their life's belongings in tattered bags at their feet.
I remember my grandfather always telling me about what that experience was like -- their eyes wide open, even as the salt and wind burned at their faces -- and how he and my grandmother and ten children settled among other immigrants in Toledo, Ohio. He often told us stories of the generosity of those families, and the "hands of many colors" that reached out to help him and his family.
We Americans like to talk about our nation's early history, and how the great experiment of our democracy continues to grow and mature with each passing decade. We're proud of our country's many-colored population, our very special Melting Pot; and each year at this time, I am reminded that my Lebanese ancestors were among the first to "melt." Now immigration is one of America's hottest buttons. This is a great country -- a free, compassionate, generous country -- but not everyone can live here. And it is difficult to live within those two concepts. I'm just glad no one told any of this to my Lebanese grandparents.
But this is the day to put aside our differences. It's Old Glory's birthday! -- a time to celebrate the great triumph of our enduring liberty, and that, for 235 years, we have remained the brightest beacon of freedom on the planet.
Tonight, hands of many colors will toss firecrackers, and light barbecue pits, and hoist their children on their shoulders to, once again, watch our sparkling "bombs bursting in air." And later, those hands will turn off porch lights everywhere, and bid goodnight to another day of freedom in America.
God bless all of you on this great day. And God bless America.