About time for sharing this special speech by husband Pieter, delivered on the 4th of July at the Dublin stadion before fireworks.
The 4th of July 1994
Thanks for the kind introduction; now you know almost all about the two of us.
For the introduction of a speaker a typical question always is, what is exactly your title?
In a certain booklet we found that there is actually no prouder title than to be an American Citizen.
Although the weather is not cooperating too well, today we have something really important to celebrate as you all know we celebrate Uncle Sam's 218th Birthday, the birth of this great nation.
In the introduction, you have heard that we are new Americans, although we came to this country already in 1983.
My wife's love–affair with the United States started in April of 1983; her very first visit to the New World.
Some Campbell Soup people taught her at that time some history by visiting Rockford (Grand Rapids), Michigan, where President Ford grew up. They thought maybe she was homesick and thus they brought her to Holland in Michigan.
She was not homesick but just absorbing all she could about this fascinating New World.
One of the highlights was the visit to Chestnut Street in Philadelphia; to the Independence Hall—the home of the Liberty Bell, a shrine of Patriotism for all Americans.
There we learned more about Life with a capital 'L' and also about Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The next day we flew to Dublin, Georgia and there we fell deeper and deeper in love with the New World.
So, in August of 1983, we came to live here.
This was Our Pursuit of Happiness.
Last year we got our American Citizenship and since then we can say: we are Dutch by birth and Americans by choice, and we are proud of both.
There are a couple of reasons for that pride. Maybe you didn't know, but the Dutch, of any nation, have the longest uninterrupted friendly relationship with the U.S. and for sure we like to keep it that way.
It was on November 16 in 1776, that the Ford on the Dutch Island of St. Eustatius in the Caribbean returned the salute from the American warship Andrea Dorea, as it entered the harbor.
This was the first salute by a foreign power to the flag of the United States of America.
As the history books say: this was a very courageous action by the Dutch, and it enhanced the diplomatic credibility of the United States of America.
It also gave a strong boost to the moral of the revolutionary troops.
So, today it is 218 years ago that the U.S. has been founded.
In the Dutch tradition, Birthdays always are important events, often celebrated with an all–day open house, birthday gifts etc.
A good question, not only for us but for all immigrants could be: 'Why did you come to the U.S.?
What did we expect to find here what we eventually didn't have in the country where we lived before?
Although a lot of things have changed since then, the answer will be more or less identical to what brought the founding fathers to this of the world over 200 years ago.
The most important reason for them was the freedom and the space to live in the broadest sense.
The freedom to believe in God in different ways; the freedom to have your own opinion, the opportunity to develop yourself up to the limits etc.
On this Birthday we should never forget that the Founding Fathers, and after them numerous immigrants, have for sure not chosen the easiest way. They didn't find a paradise; they just found a place with almost unlimited opportunities, but they had to be explored.
Very important also is that their Freedom was based on a STRONG MORAL AND PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.
That, in combination with hard work, made this country into what it is today; in our opinion the best country to live in.
We have a number of good reasons to make this statement.
As you perhaps know, or picked up from the introduction, for our job we traveled and still do, all over the world and lived in several countries.
We lived in Dublin, Georgia from 1983 through 1988 and after that in Italy and Indonesia.
We more and more discovered what a great country the U.S. is to live in; we got homesick and looked for every opportunity to return.
With O'Henry we can say, "You can't appreciate home 'till yu've left it... or old glory 'till you see it hanging on a broomstick on the shanty of a consul in a foreign town."
We think Americans in general don't realize how blessed they are, too many things we just take for granted.
Especially the younger generation should realize that it hasn't been always this good, just travel the world and find out how spoiled in fact we are.
As the Founding Fathers long time ago, we've found our real happiness in this country.
We often have to answer the question why we've chosen to live in America.
We think we are able to give a reasonable answer because we can compare.
Our standard answer to that question is: The U.S. is for sure not paradise and not the ideal society because it is built up by some 250 million human beings. But traveling over the world, we can assure you that you will have a hard time to find a better place to live. Therefore, we have good reasons to be thankful and to celebrate the Birthday of this great nation.
Like in the Dutch tradition, we should not come to a Birthday party with empty hands; one has to carry a gift.
What kind of a gift could we come up with for the Birthday of our country?
The most appropriate gift in our opinion would be that we promise to contribute our share in what the founding fathers once started.
They worked hard to develop this country, made it prosperous and a better place to live. They installed and maintained high moral values, based on a strong believe in God.
They've shown the world that they could handle their freedom.
Our forefathers didn't contribute frivolous gifts to this country.
So, let's celebrate this Birthday of our nation not only with a spectacular firework but let us wrap up a big box for Uncle Sam, containing:
A huge amount of humility, a lot of tolerance, respect for each other and patience, the most of integrity and compassion and a strong will to share freely with others.
Thank you Founding Fathers!
Happy Birthday Uncle Sam, we love this country.
May God bless this nation and all of us.
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