Happy Birthday, America

By: Gabriela Yareliz

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

[Constitution of the United States of America, Amendment I]

In journalism school, I would often walk past the wall with the First Amendment on display. Every single time I walked by, I read it. It always moved me deeply. At times, it has moved me to tears. (Law nerd, much?) It moves me deeply because I believe it symbolizes the deepest of freedoms. Freedom of conscience and expression. The freedoms that make us who we are.

***

I won’t sit here and pretend you are perfect, America. Growing up here, often meant I felt like I didn’t belong. But that said, I recognize the freedom offered to me so I can say that.

Where else can a person from the projects build a multimillion dollar company? Where else can a person who slept in his car own millions of dollars worth in real estate, years later? Where else can we protest, not fearing death? Where else can an immigrant fight his way to the top? Where else is there a promise lingering for those who work and dream? Where else can you give your children a future radically different from your past? Where else can women embrace the same jobs men do and lead? Where else can you marry someone from a country across the planet from you?

It’s you, America. It’s you. And while the people inside of you can sometimes be hurtful or afraid of what is different, and while you were built on a dark history, it’s also you who gave us leaders that changed not only this country but the world. You gave us a military whose honor cannot be beat.

No matter what I faced in this life, I knew that there was a promise that sat in your open hand, ready for the taking, and a blessing on you from the highest places.

Thank you, America, for your freedom, promise and opportunity. Had I been born or grown up somewhere else, I know I wouldn’t be the same. Here, I have the freedom to worship and believe and share my beliefs.

Here, I have the freedom to put on a blazer and go to court and advocate for others. Here, I can get into a car and drive to wherever I choose to go.

I can be the crazily opinionated person that I am, here. (I promise that in another country, they would have killed me by now). Here, I can write provocative pieces. I can fight for justice and win. And because of that, I will never be the same.

Happy birthday.

Published by Gabriela Yareliz

Gabriela is a writer, editor and attorney. She loves the art of storytelling, and she is based in NYC.

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