Having lived my eight decades -- and proud of it -- I am able to say that this is not the worst time in our history or in my lifetime. Race riots and lynchings were rampant during my early years -- segregation and injustice abounded, but there was a sense that for all the unspeakable cruelties we were going forward -- that the country was better than the crimes that a few committed.
As we celebrate America's independence, we can best express our patriotism by uniting together in steadfast solidarity against bigotry and xenophobia. That is the first step to fulfilling the promises of the Declaration of Independence, safeguarding our Constitution, and preserving the founding ideals of our nation.
Since 1963 more than 176,000 children have died from gun violence in America — over three times more than all the soldiers killed in action in the Vietnam War and every external conflict since. Our children have a right to grow up in a caring and decent society that protects their right to live and learn in safety.
One thing is certain: intolerance and hatred inevitably lead to violence and death. Our primary response to the horrific massacre at the Pulse nightclub must be to rededicate ourselves to creating a culturally diverse society that is based on tolerance and respect for other religions, sexual orientations, races and life styles.