When I was very young my mother told me stories about her childhood and her experiences in Patton’s army during World War II. She was a fantastic storyteller. She was a nurse in a field hospital in the Battle of the Bulge and in the advance army when the allies entered Germany. She was one of the first units into the Buchenwald concentration camp and her detailed description and pictures kept me sitting quietly for hours. Telling stories was her way of dealing with the horrors and tragedies she lived through.
July, in The United States, is a time to celebrate the rights and privileges we live with and also the heritage that helped create those unalienable rights. My heritage includes people from Germany, Sweden, England, and Scotland who made difficult choices 300 years ago to leave their homes and everything that they understood to venture across a wild uncertain sea to a land that was filled with unknown dangers. My great (great several more times) grandfather, Thomas Stone, signed the Declaration of Independence. He then retired to his farm in poor health, lost most of his wealth, and died.
Today I live in a world based on the choices made by those relatives who have long since passed away. The world we have inherited from them is full of sadness, problems, hunger, and abuse. On the other hand, we have a world that is more wonderful than any other time before us.
Today, more people have access to education than in the history of the world. Because of the Internet and smart phones, more people than ever before can increase their knowledge. Also, more people are giving time and service to provide education to those who traditionally would not have received it.
Today, more people are able to make a decent living. For some that may mean working hard, for long hours, in a difficult environment, for little money. That is true, but that little money is more than these people had before and they are learning new skills. I have also worked very hard, for long hours, in very trying environments and for little money. Hard, sweaty, tedious work taught me many things.
Today, more people than ever before have the chance to think new thoughts, express themselves, and make decisions about their lives.
Today, more people than ever before have the means to buy things in addition to food.
Today, more people are able to share information, new ideas and collaborate with less effort than ever before. Differences are being understood and diverse ways are being accepted.
Today, more people than ever before are able to communicate in a common language. English is not a perfect language, but I was able to stand on a hillside in the middle of Turkey and have a discussion with a young teenager about the importance of education because we both spoke English. He was a very young, talented salesman, motivated and sharp. I suggested that he go back to school and we had a long conversation about his goals and mission. Ten years ago this young vendor would have only been able to say “Lady, you are beautiful, buy my wares.” Today he was able to talk about his choices. Tomorrow he will contact Amazon and become one of their many vendors, selling his goods to the world.
Today, more people than ever before have the ability to make choices in more areas of their lives than ever before. These choices will give them a better life and their posterity a better future.
My mother had a very difficult, abusive childhood, and she lived through many horrible experiences in the war. She also made choices that none of these experiences would hold her back from being a good person and in moving forward in her life. She was a very remarkable adult and added value everywhere she went.
In the United States, we will celebrate our independence this month. I am grateful for all those who have made choices that give me this opportunity to celebrate. The rest of the world can also celebrate the many good opportunities and choices that now exist for them.