Today, our great nation celebrates another year of independence as a sovereign country. It is therefore, both timely and appropriate, to examine what it means to be an American and to live on what has become over the course of history the greatest nation on Earth. To begin, it is worth noting that it is our history, however imperfect it may be, that has shaped us into the nation we are today, and there is nothing wrong with being proud of that aspect of our history.
It all began on that fateful day, on July 4, 1776, in the midst of a Revolutionary War for our Independence, when our Founding Fathers solemnly declared our independence from the British Empire with the following words:
“We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly and publish and declare, that these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved… and for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor.”
It was from this point on that the entire history of not just a country, but the entire world would forever be altered as the world saw its first republic since the fall of the Roman Empire be born, and we, the people of the United States, have never looked back since. We have gone through a civil war, two world wars, westward expansion, a cold war versus the evil empire that was the Soviet Union and communism around the globe, among many other trial and tribulations, and even then, we have seen this great nation withstand the test of time because of what we believe in: our values we hold dear as Americans that are passed on from generation to generation. This is why President Ronald Reagan in his Farewell Address to the country referred to America as a “shining city on a hill,” and this is why the greatness of our nation lies within four main qualities unique only to this nation: our people, our places, our history, and our values.
These are the reasons why I know I have never been prouder to be an American than I am right now. And even despite all the political problems our nation faces within certain demographics of the overall population, (ranging from college student protests over student loan debt cancellation, pro-LGBTQ and pro-woman’s choice activism, pro-Palestine and anti-Israel protests, the Black Lives Matter movement, and yes, even Cancel Culture and revisionist history often referred to as “colonialism”) there is no doubt that only in America can you enjoy these liberties of free speech, free press, free worship, and of course, the right and freedom to keep and bear arms. No other country in the world preserves and protects the people’s basic freedoms like we do here in the United States, and this is why millions of immigrants from around the world come to the United States to start a new life of their own with the hope that their children and grandchildren can reap the benefits of the American Dream and lead better lives than the ones their ancestors left behind in their native lands.
Such is the story of my own. I know I am a living, breathing, walking, talking, product of the American Dream, and this I know because I know I have worked to achieve this dream of mine of attending the University of Texas at Austin, and I was successful in getting here. I started out going to a community college in my hometown of Cypress, Texas, a suburb of northwest Houston after graduating from high school without honors. Once I entered community college, I knew where I had to set my sights on, these Forty Acres. I worked tirelessly and diligently for two-and-a-half years making A’s and B’s, joining honor societies (something I never did in high school), and never stepping foot on the break, with only one goal in mind: the University of Texas at Austin. After what felt like forever within that span, I finally got the exciting news that I had gotten accepted at UT Austin, and all that hard work at the community college level finally paid off! I would now be attending the university of my dreams!
Since then, the blessings have been nothing short of abundant! This place has indeed given me everything I ever wanted out of it and so much more, but that did not really sink in until my first full academic year here at UT. I was blessed with the opportunity to work in the Athletic Department in the pre-COVID days, and I remember looking outside of the office I worked from in the North End Zone of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, and I saw the Veterans’ Memorial Plaza directly below me, and then my eyes gradually looked towards the rest of the UT campus, and eventually, as far as my eyes could see, beyond the Austin City Limits towards places like Round Rock and Cedar Park as I loved telling people, and then all of a sudden, every single cover of “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood that has been performed, including the original, morphed into my head as it all happened. That was when I truly began to realize, that only in America do dreams like this come true, only in America can hard work pay off without hurting someone else’s chances at succeeding in life, and that only in America can we pursue happiness and live the American Dream to the fullest, however different all of this may appear for each one of us.
As I mentioned in my first article, this university has not only taught me how to be a prouder American, but also how to be a prouder Texan. Everyone knows about the uniqueness of our mascot, the Texas Longhorn, and how that breed of cattle stands out from all the rest due to its intimate ties to a state as great as any other across the face of this nation. Make no mistake about it, the Texas Longhorn steer is every bit as Texan as the bald eagle is American. Any time you see a longhorn steer, you know you are seeing in it the greatness and uniqueness of an entire state. The strength, tenacity, endurance, and fortitude of the Texas Longhorn to withstand every tempest and harsh weather condition is every bit emblematic of an entire people of a great state who so proudly call it home. Such are the traits of the American bald eagle, its swiftness, agility, and ability to fly at great heights are worthy representative qualities of our nation’s loftiest ideals and highest virtues proclaimed and enshrined in our Declaration of Independence and guaranteed and protected by our Constitution. Ideals and virtues that every American across this great land, both young and old, aspires to achieve with their hard work, sacrifice, and patriotism, that is, the American Dream. Therefore, to be a proud Longhorn is to be a proud Texan, and to be a proud Texan is to be a proud American. We would not have our great state if it were not for our great country, and we definitely would never have our great university and all its great and unique traditions, history, culture, and heritage if it were not for our great state. And with this ever in mind, just as our Main Building sits high atop a hill shining bright in burnt orange after every Longhorn championship victory against the backdrop of a Texas Hill Country midnight sky, so too, in the words of President Ronald Reagan, may we become that Shining City on a Hill.
To conclude, it is with this spirit of pride, patriotism, and profound love for America that we should celebrate our nation’s independence on this Fourth of July. We should celebrate those things about this country that we love and the things that already make it great among nations. This could be through attending a Fourth of July parade in your local community, cracking open an ice-cold Budweiser as you grill hot dogs and burgers in your backyard barbecue, decorating your home in the colors of Old Glory, going to the beach or having a pool party with your best friends with your face painted red, white, and blue, listening to classic American patriotic music from the likes Springsteen and Mellencamp, or even better yet, watching a fireworks show in the distance with your boyfriend/girlfriend from the tailgate of a pickup truck. Either way, however you choose to celebrate this amazing holiday, all across this great land, from coast to coast, from sea to shining sea, from Detroit to Houston and New York to L.A., never, ever forget the greatness of our country because the greatness lies within the greatness of we, the people of the United States. As a point of inspiration, I leave you with perhaps the most important paragraph in the U.S. Declaration of Independence:
“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 – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, – That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
On behalf of all of us here at The Texas Horn, a very safe and happy Fourth of July to all of you! Thank you so much for reading! God bless you all, and may God continue to forever bless, sanctify, and protect these United States of America!
Daniel Villalva is the Former Copy Editor for The Texas Horn. He is 23 years old and originally from Houston, Texas. Daniel is a Sport Management major here at UT Austin, and he enjoys writing for The Texas Horn because it is a tremendous gateway to disseminate his thoughts and opinions on topics such as sports, politics, and history. Some of his hobbies include talking about those things and especially watching sports on TV.