When it comes time to celebrate Independence Day on Friday, July 4, many of us will, or at least should, take time to show appreciation for our freedoms that make the United States of America such a unique country.

Our freedoms aren't due just to the service people risking their lives to protect us. All of us have a role in preserving our individual liberty, even those who feel they have little power or little say in what happens.

We may complain about bitter partisan divides in this country, but at least we don't have insurgents battling in the streets of our country. We may not like the message of some people that don't share our views, but we give them space to speak their mind without resorting to violence.

With liberty comes tolerance and respect of others.

The world has changed much since 1776, but our ideals remain in place, just in different forms. As the electronic world has infiltrated our personal lives, we are grappling with how to preserve our rights while keeping government reigned in.

The revelation of government surveillance through the NSA has left many people uneasy, and some groups challenging the domestic spying. The fourth amendment prohibiting unreasonable search and seizure was recently clarified as the Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement needs a warrant to search smartphones, which, in many ways, have become an extension of our homes.

It isn't only national leaders that have a role in preserving our ideals.

Even the smallest units of government are models that reflect our nation's ideals, preserving the integrity of this country. In mass, they make quite an impact on the peaceful exchange of ideas in America. At times, single actions of local officials can have a national impact.

For example, the separation of church and state has always created tension in the United States, a country that values freedom from religious persecution while many of its citizens also value personal religious ideals. A town council in the state of New York opened its meeting with a prayer for many years, a situation that led to a legal challenge and eventually a decision by the Supreme Court.

The court ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that it's permissible to open a government meeting with a prayer. Not everyone agreed with the split decision, but it is the law of the land and now up to local units, provided the prayers don't advocate one religion and residents aren't coerced.

Few, if any, Minnesota units of government are rushing to make a change in the way they operate. However, if units of government are considering opening meetings with a prayer, Allan Burke, publisher emeritus of the Emmons County Record in Linton, N.D., has a suggested prayer for these county commissions, school boards, city councils and other entities.

"Lord, may this meeting include full and open discussion of the issues, and let the public be assured that no deals have been cut or discussion held outside this meeting.

"We ask that no board business be conducted by phone, email, Facebook, text or Twitter, and that this board follow federal and state laws.

"Please guide this board to rarely go into executive session and always to be transparent.

"It is our humble request that the official minutes include a reasonable and fair summary of the proceedings and not be censored by the politicians. We ask that members of this board abstain from voting when they have a conflict of interest.

"May this board remember the ordinances, rules and regulations it has adopted and precedents it has set and follow them with consistency.

"Lord, we ask that those voting to spend money remember that taxes come out of the pockets of hardworking citizens and should be spent sparingly and wisely.

"We ask that no favoritism be shown because of a person's family connections, standing in the community, power or wealth and that all citizens be treated fairly and with respect.

"Lord, we ask that competitive bids be sought for major expenditures and that the truth be told about those bids.

"Finally, Lord, we ask that this board listen to the citizens and accept input, suggestions and criticism graciously.

Thank you, Lord, for blessing us with the opportunity to live in a democratic republic under the United States Constitution.


It's a prayer that all our elected officials should take to heart - and one that reminds us that there is a responsibility in all of us to keep the spirit of America alive no matter how small of a role we play in the national conversation or how much the world changes since the ideals of our forefathers were put forth.

This holiday weekend, you have the freedom to go wherever you want and do whatever you choose - even stay home and connect via social media or take part in family rituals - in this peaceful country along side people of widely different beliefs. However, take some time to reflect on how that is possible, what makes this country unique and how each of us contribute to preserving the ideals of America in this rapidly changing world.

Just don't forget to have some fun.

Happy Independence Day!