There isn’t anywhere in this great nation where the spirit of America shines brighter than right here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. As our country prepares to celebrate its 246th birthday this July Fourth, Americans will gather with loved ones for patriotic festivities of all kinds. For those of us in the Keystone State, this holiday means just a little bit more because we are fortunate to walk many of the same sacred grounds as the men and women who created, safeguarded, and preserved our union.
Pennsylvania’s role in forever changing the course of human history is well-documented. From its roots as a land of religious freedom and self-government, our commonwealth has served as the stage for many of America’s most consequential moments over the last 246 years. Hundreds of years ago, our Founding Fathers chose Pennsylvania to serve as the beacon of democracy. In this great commonwealth, the Continental Congress convened to enshrine our hard-earned freedoms and fundamental liberties, making us the birthplace of America.
Philadelphia is where our Constitution was signed and later stood as our nation’s first capital. During the Civil War, a quiet town in southern Pennsylvania became the setting of one of the pivotal battles in the war for the heart of our nation. The grounds of Gettysburg remain a solemn symbol reminding us of the painful cost of war.
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The words of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address remind us that it was not we who designated that land as hallowed grounds. It has been “consecrated” through the sacrifices of those who gave “the last full measure of devotion” to ensure “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Those immortal lines echo through history and are practically etched into the ground we are blessed to call home. As Pennsylvanians, we take tremendous pride that our home has always been a bellwether for our country and the entire world. When America succeeds, that light cascades across the globe, and much of that light has beaconed from right here in our Commonwealth.
As American innovation changed our world, Pennsylvania became an industrial powerhouse, producing fuel and an array of goods for a new age. We continue in this role today with the biggest energy resources in the country after Texas. Simultaneously, Pennsylvania has been at the forefront of some of the most tremendous advancements in arts and sciences and is home to groundbreaking educational landmarks.
I believe that, once again, the eyes of the world are focused on what we do right here in Pennsylvania as we begin mapping the blueprint for restoring America. The stakes are enormously high. America’s greatness is defined not solely by our liberties and freedoms, but by the unparalleled opportunity afforded to those who are fortunate enough to call it home. Like many others throughout history, my parents immigrated to the United States because they were drawn to our nation’s reputation as the ‘shining city on the hill.’
Pennsylvanians demand leaders who will solve their problems in a meaningful and effective way and whose contributions will stand the test of time.
While some might believe our ‘city upon a hill’ is shining a little dim these days, I disagree. As I’ve traveled around the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it’s abundantly clear to me that the light shines as bright as ever in people’s eyes.
Because of our unique seat in the front row of our nation’s history, Pennsylvanians know what’s possible and the immense sacrifice required to bring us this far. Pennsylvanians demand leaders who will solve their problems in a meaningful and effective way and whose contributions will stand the test of time.
That’s why Independence Day is so special to Pennsylvanians and why I consider myself so blessed to call the commonwealth my home. As we celebrate our freedom as a nation, I hope you will join me as we walk in the footsteps of giants and reflect on how the Signers of the Declaration of Independence’s pledge “to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor” so boldly set us down a path that has made it possible for us to call ourselves proud Pennsylvanians and patriotic Americans for 246 years.
Dr. Mehmet Oz is a cardiothoracic surgeon, award-winning author, and former daytime television host running for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania.