Today is a national holiday, born of thirteen American Colonies proclaiming themselves as a new nation. Today, when we celebrate as one, it is easy to forget that land comprising our nation once belonged to other countries.
Important shipping routes have always hugged the Florida coastline and Spain laid early claims to the land, but when Britain (including colonial troops) captured Havana in 1762, Spain ceded the territory to England as ransom. In 1776, Florida still belonged to the British. Rather than allow the newly formed United States to gain control of it, Britain took a lesser-of-two-evils approach and returned it to Spain in 1783. Sixty-two years later, Florida gained statehood.
During the Civil War, Union soldiers controlled Fort Zachary Taylor in the Dry Tortugas. For a brief time in history it was said that Key West was the only settlement in the United States where a person had to travel north in order to be in the South.
In a world where borders are only lines on a map, people are persecuted because of the color of their passport or the culture they hold dear. Today is a day for citizens of the United States to celebrate their heritage. All of us.
Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness. The ideals that formed this wonderful nation have at times polarized the country. We are a nation of individuals. We must not forget our personal responsibilities to value life, support liberty and remember that happiness is often found when it’s not being chased.