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One of my favorite events of the summer is celebrating the Fourth of July with family and friends. Since the “Miracle on the Hudson,” I celebrate July 4th with a renewed appreciation for my country and my fellow Americans. I commemorate not just the birth and sustained freedom and independence of our nation, but also the American spirit. I celebrate the generosity, sense of justice and kindness rooted within so many Americans — qualities that help push us to continue our search for what is right, what is good—getting us closer and closer to what our ideals truly stand for.

Americans are a unique brand of people. We are generous, giving without expecting returns, even when we are not afforded a similar luxury. I value deeply the humanity and goodwill I have experienced time and time again, from my childhood in Texas through my years in the military to the events of January 15, 2009 and in the years since. Our generosity is not just limited to what we supply from our wallets, but from our hearts as well. I remember vividly the shivers of the men and women on the Hudson, and I think of the deckhands who took the clothes off their backs to keep them warm. I remember the passengers who, even in those harrowing moments, placed the lives and needs of others before their own. I still feel the rush of gratitude and pride I felt that day each time I witness an act of kindness or the grace of another American today.

I believe it is incredibly important to have a sense of community, and I can think of none stronger than our own. America’s spirit is one of hope, and it’s about redefining what’s possible. And in that spirit, Lorrie and I wish you and your family a happy and a safe Fourth of July celebration.