Darcy Kiefel

The 4th of July, of all our national holidays, should be a time time when we can come together as Americans to celebrate our country, our legacy of democracy, and what we all share as a people. And yet our badly frayed relationships, fueled by polarized discourse and the endless political chatter on our TV screens and mobile devices, constantly reinforces and highlights the things that divide us. Independence Day is a welcome opportunity to set aside the rhetoric and for all Americans, irrespective of our differences, to appreciate the place we all call home.

Indeed, America’s physical landscape, from sea to shining sea, binds us together as assuredly as the American Dream. And our public lands ― our national parks, forests, wilderness areas and wildlife refuges – are a source of universal pride, admiration, and the envy of the world. These timeless and majestic natural wonders and places where our history was made are living, breathing testaments to the greatness of our nation and wisdom of our forefathers. They are also the common ground that all Americans value and honor regardless of where they come from, where they live or how they vote.

The geysers and wildlife of Yellowstone; the breathtaking majesty of the Grand Canyon, Acadia’s mountains and rocky shorelines, and the swamps of the Everglades are great examples of the American Commons, where all are welcome. The battlefields at Lexington and Gettysburg; Old North Church, Martin Luther King Jr’s home and the Flight 93 monument – America’s story is worth telling in perpetuity. Is there anything more democratic and all-American – totally without class connotations – than our National Parks? And the sight of Winnebagos, fishing boats, and tents; the aroma of campfires and s’mores melting and the sound of camp songs under the stars, gives me comfort in knowing that with each new family memory created, the lessons we can learn from nature and history and being together in America’s…