As we celebrated the 4th of July, 2004, I wondered if we appreciated what it meant, or if America could be summed-up as a country steeped in the silent crisis of uncertainty -- a superficial society of extremes, assaulted by selfish interests, battered by the failures of good intentions and confused by media-driven chaos.

Even so, on Independence Day, as I thought back over the years of my existence, I felt a deep sense of gratitude. I gave thanks to the those who made it possible for me to enjoy "the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Still, I have an underlying feeling of dread that our 228-year-old legacy is slipping away and that if we continue to be too complacent, too distracted and too uninformed to do our duty as self-governing citizens and participate in democracy, we won't be able to stop the abuse and the loss of what America really means: Freedom.