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Celebrate your freedom on the Fourth of July

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Cincinnati offers plenty of fabulous ways to celebrate the Fourth of July. At 11:00 a.m., the traditional parade marches up 5th Street, past Fountain Square, where a festival will follow. Later, at 9:00 p.m., the spectacular 4th of July fireworks begin—also with a great view from—you guessed it—Fountain Square. Coupled with hotdogs, burgers, and beer, these happenings are the most popular and populated in the Queen City. No one wants you to miss these festive traditions if it's your desire to join in.

But isn’t there something more? Isn’t there some way each of us can stand apart from the crowd and celebrate the liberty that’s our birthright? Our forebears gave their lives so we could exercise our freedom of choice. Independence Day is the perfect time to observe their selfless gift. While we may know we’re free in the abstract, how many of us 1) take this for granted or 2) squander it, with ample excuses?

The fact is that each and every one of us is F-R-E-E! While this concept is infinite in scope, let’s stop and consider just one important aspect: freedom of speech. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the making of any law abridging “freedom of speech.” In other words, every U.S. citizens has inherited the privilege of freedom of expression! This is exciting stuff! Stop and think: when was the last time you exercised your freedom of expression? Never mind. More to the point, how can you begin to exercise it now, and why would you want to?

I’ll start with why you might want to: As a communication specialist, I believe that individual expression is at the heart and soul of independence, creativity, purpose, and self-fulfillment. That’s putting it in a nutshell. True happiness—or joy if you will—results when a person becomes aware of the value of his or her uniqueness. In turn, individuality is most valuable when it’s shared. The strength of the U.S. depends on the fullest contribution of all its individuals in their glorious diversity.

You don’t need to be a musician, an artist, an author, or a poet to express your uniqueness. You can share your singular perspective as an entrepreneur; a scientist…the list is endless. Further, as a parent, a teacher, or leader in any capacity, you have an exciting opportunity to inspire others to express their own points of view—ideally based on their highest quality thought. Yes, this takes some courage. That’s why it’s exhilarating.

I don’t mean to dampen your independent spirit, but I’ll say it anyway: with freedom comes responsibility. The sky is pretty much the limit. as long as you don’t hurt others, Sometimes it’s hard to draw the line, but laws can help you determine justice when you've exhausted your own capabilities, which are grander than you might believe. Plus, it follows that if you’re not hurting someone, your unique self-expression has enormous potential for good.

One final important way to make your voice heard is with your vote. I know voting can seem daunting sometimes, and yes, even futile, but we can’t give in to apathy if we want the U.S. to stay healthy, expanding on the principles that made us strong in the first place. Our very right to freedom is based on those principles that our brave and noble ancestors defended to the death. Now that freedom is ours to appreciate. They wanted it that way.

Enjoy the happiest Independence Day ever!

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