What better time to talk about patriotism than around our July fourth birthday? Merriam-Webster defines patriotism as, “Love for or devotion to one's country.” Far be it from me to improve upon Merriam-Webster’s definition, but here goes, “Love for or devotion to one’s country AND adherence to its fundamental principles.”

You see, somebody can love our country, fly the flag on one’s house or wear it on one’s lapels, stand up during our national anthem with hand over heart and belt out the words but, in my opinion, to be a true patriot you also need to cherish the fundamental principles of our country as expressly laid down in our Declaration of Independence and in our Constitution. 

I remember when I was mayor of Fort Lee, there was a police officer who took money from drug dealers and protected the mafia, and yet I would see him on occasion take communion at church. He had all the trappings of a religions person, but I seriously doubt whether he fooled the ultimate judge.

First and foremost, the rock upon which our country stands is just one simple sentence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

In my opinion, to be a true patriot, one needs to believe in this preamble to our Declaration of Independence and also to believe in our Bill of Rights--a free press, the right to assemble, the separation of church and state, the freedom to speak, and so on.

And most important, you must vote if you are eligible to. NO EXCUSES! Generations of Americans have fought and died for this sacred right, and so to be a true patriot, you really have to vote.

So celebrate the Fourth of July. Sing our national anthem, march in a parade, fly the flag and watch the fireworks, but always remember the rights our ancestors fought for. By protecting those rights, you will be a true patriot. Happy Birthday, America!

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