In eighth grade I won second place in the Farm Bureau's America and Me essay contest for my school. Third place was one of my friends, Michelle. After receiving our certificates and ribbons on stage at graduation, she and I vowed not to tell anyone that there were only three entries to the contest for our school.
My essay was definitely unconventional. I wrote about how the United States is not perfect by any means, but its system of government offers the most opportunities to fix it. I believe I may have referenced the Simpson's episode where Lisa wins an essay contest. In that episode she visits Washington D.C. but loses faith in the United States when she uncovers a corrupt senator.
Fifteen years later, I can't believe I actually submitted that and won second place. I don't feel any different about my country. I still believe that the United States has its problems and I still believe that it is probably the best country in the world.
My stepfather was in the Navy while I was growing up, so I got to live in places all over the country. I saw beauty in Michigan, Florida, New England, California and Virginia. I even lived in Spain for three years, where I saw another form of government in action.
My birthday is July 7th, so I have always felt strong ties to July 4th. When I was younger, it felt like the fireworks were another part of my birthday celebration and that me and my country were forever inseparable. I still feel that way.
Happy Fourth of July, my fellow Americans. Enjoy the birthday of our nation, and remember that it may not be perfect but there really isn't any better option.