Having lived in the Old World for a few years now, I have heard my country compared to an adolescent, with all the attendant charm and hubris implied. For awhile, this made sense to me as an affectionate (if somewhat patronizing) metaphor. However, it ignores the revolutionary nature of America's start, and the real reason that we celebrate on the Fourth of July. America was not born and raised like a child; it was founded and developed like a startup company.
However, unlike a startup company, our founders didn't just invest time and money -- but pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to this venture. They did so not just to better themselves individually, but to start something that would take on a life of its own. Their hope -- like that of Steve Jobs and so many others -- was that it would be so infused with the revolutionary spirit of its founding that it would continue to adapt and innovate in order to remain a leader in the global marketplace of good governance -- that is, as a country.
Many such adaptations have indeed taken place. Slavery had to be abolished in keeping with this revolutionary spirit of individual liberty. Likewise, everyone had to be enfranchised. It was on August 18, 1920, with the ratification of the 19th amendment, that America's enterprise truly "went public" (at least on paper), granting everyone in the nation an equal stake in the organization and its destiny.
Elite republics had been established before, and up until the full realization of equal participation in government brought about by the Civil Rights Movement, America's bold experiment could be regarded as just a logical iteration on the principles laid down in the English Magna Carta, or a re-incarnation of Roman rule. It was its foundational enterprising spirit, however, that carried America through to become a full democracy.
Reflecting as shareholders on the current health of the organization, we must acknowledge the elephant in the boardroom: Most of the developed world has long since caught up. The United States got its start in reaction to some misguided foreign policy on the part of the British Empire. Yet now we are ourselves, like the imperial regime we threw off, constantly at war. Other key innovations, such as providing basic healthcare for all of our people and reducing gun violence, have eluded us so far. But it is not too late.
As we celebrate the revolutionary spirit that brought greater equality and opportunity to millions, let us not forget that we must continue to adapt to survive and thrive as a nation. Sometimes this means acknowledging and adopting innovations that are working well for other countries. To truly honor the courage of our founders, we must keep asking: what is our next iteration or innovation? Where do we go from here? How can we continue to evolve and grow -- not only financially but morally -- to realize the full potential of the spirit we have inherited? This, to me, is where the real fireworks begin.