Last Thursday, as with every Independence Day, I enjoyed lighting off fireworks, listening to great music, and spending time with my family.

Each year, the amazing display of light and sound reminds me of just how great our nation is, but also that freedom is not free. I know that there are many families on the fourth of July who watch the fireworks with a heavy heart, understanding better than anyone the price of freedom. I would like to thank all who have served or are currently serving our nation for defending my rights and the rights of all Americans. We are the land of the free and the home of the brave, a country unlike any other, and it is important that we respect and cherish what so many have fought and died to protect—the American way.

America is an amazing country, as evidenced by over one million immigrants that come to the nation each year seeking a better life. America welcomes more immigrants than any other country and provides them with the opportunity to make the best of themselves and live the American way. A crucial part of the American way is acceptance; we are a melting pot, where people of every language, nation, and race can live together, united under one Constitution. The reason that America is the greatest nation in the world is that its government is by the people, for the people, and therefore, protects the people. The American way is living in a country where the government recognizes that everyone—no matter their race, religion, gender, origin, or age—is created equal, and that everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This is why people come from all over the world; they see the value of living in a nation of freedom and opportunity.

The American way is also having the freedom to pursue one’s dreams. For me, this means seeking a higher education and ultimately, a professional career. The possibilities are endless; thanks to America’s free enterprise system, I have been able to start a mowing business to save for college. Thanks to the First Amendment, I have the freedom to express my opinion through speech and writing, including this editorial. The abundance of liberty provided to Americans in the Constitution gives them the opportunity to follow their passions and improve life for themselves and others.

Unfortunately, there are some who say that America is not the greatest nation in the world, who protest against and have tried to ban everything from patriotic shoes to cauliflower, labeling said items as “colonialist” or “offensive”. The issue surrounding the Betsy Ross flag design on a certain brand of athletic shoes is nothing but a nonsensical claim intended to gain media attention and boost profits. The alleged reason for the controversy is that the flag image could be associated with slavery; history says otherwise. The Betsy Ross flag was the original American flag used in the Revolutionary War; adopted by the Continental Congress in 1777 as the national flag, it was designed with thirteen stripes and thirteen stars, which represented the thirteen original colonies who united against British rule. Under the American flag, these brave people brought forth a new nation and would later abolish slavery.

The Betsy Ross flag does not stand for slavery, but for freedom—freedom from tyranny, where one person could control all others and deprive them of their rights. Coincidentally, one person, whose name will not be mentioned, controlled the decision to stop the sale of shoes with this patriotic symbol. Perhaps a bit too ironically, this same person works for the company whose shoes he took umbrage with. In fact, he is part of the company’s marketing department, which has profited greatly from the supposed controversy; the company’s value has increased by 3 billion dollars since their employee’s alleged complaint. Because the only difference between the original and modern American flags is the number of stars, to publicly denounce the Betsy Ross flag is no different than disrespecting the modern American flag, which does not come as a surprise considering the source of the shoe controversy, who was also the source of disrespect toward the National Anthem not long ago.

People who disrespect our nation and cause strife and division do not stand for the American way. Rather, they attempt to suppress the opinion of anyone whose beliefs “offend” them and many times, due to their prominence in politics, succeed. This intolerance and suppression of First Amendment rights brings tyranny dangerously close. In times like these, Americans must stand up and speak out for the American way. Ronald Reagan once famously stated, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” As members of today’s youth and tomorrow’s leadership, it is important for my generation to preserve the American way by staying educated on America’s founding principles and doing everything possible to protect freedom and justice, then teaching the next generation to do the same.

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