On the Fourth of July, we celebrate the courage, conviction and boldness of those who came before us to secure and defend American liberty.

While the British common law system had a unique appreciation for liberty, full rights only applied to British citizens. But that all changed on July 4, 1776. On that momentous day, our founders acknowledged and affirmed the enduring American belief in the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And in the years since, the demands for freedom and equality espoused in the Declaration of Independence have made it possible for leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others still today to challenge America to live up to the proclamations made in that original creed.

Though eloquently written and brilliant in substance, the Declaration could have been forgotten forever were it not for the courageous patriots who were willing and energized to fight. Had the Revolutionary War been subdued, those who signed the Declaration surely would have been charged and likely executed for treason. Even though they were out-trained and out-gunned, General George Washington’s ragtag forces of the Continental Army fought with a valor and ferocity undoubtedly charged by years of living under the cruel thumb of British tyranny. They surmounted improbable odds – including their famous victory at the Battle of Trenton by crossing the Delaware River, a bone-chilling winter at Valley Forge and ultimately dealt the decisive blow at the Battle of Yorktown.

Nearly 250 years since America claimed independence, there is still a lot to be proud of, whether you look to our promising young leaders, the economic turnaround or strides still to be made in areas like biomedical research. However, none of these things would be possible without the brave individuals in our military who selflessly answered the call of duty—from the Revolutionary War to the Global War on Terror.

America indeed has a remarkable and reassuring history. Even when political divisions run deep and emotions are high, I am still confident that America’s future is beaming bright. As our nation celebrates another birthday, may we always remember the price paid by others to secure the freedoms we enjoy today. For we truly live in the greatest nation on earth.