The season of fireworks, barbecues and picnics is officially here. And with every quintessential American summer, the warm weather holidays offer many of us time to enjoy our friends and families. They also give us time to reflect on the opportunities afforded to us thanks to the amazing country we live in. The Fourth of July in particular marks the anniversary of our nation\u2019s claim to independence, which sets us apart from any other place in the world. More than 230 years ago, Americans gained the bravery and strength needed to challenge the rule of Great Britain. It started small. The first battles of the Revolutionary War began in April 1775, with few colonists supporting the rebellion. But as word spread, people rose to the challenge. They began speaking their minds and sharing their ideas for change. A little over a year after those first battles, the nation moved to drafting a formal declaration staking our claim to live free and liberated. Five individuals, including Connecticut\u2019s own Roger Sherman, worked on the first draft, with Thomas Jefferson writing most of it. The Continental Congress representing all 13 colonies finalized the declaration together. The birth of a nation On July 2, the vote for independence was tallied, and on July 4, the Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence. And with that, the birth of a new kind of government and nation was born. Now more than ever, we need to remember the work and the words of our Founding Fathers. The declaration, which every citizen shares a special connection to, tells us \u201c\u2026that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.\u201d So this Fourth of July, remember to celebrate each of these rights. We can all live freely, we can all benefit from our unique liberties, and we are all welcome to be who we want to be. Many struggle across the globe There is so much struggle and strife in the world. So many countries do not grant people the freedoms to live as they like and say what they want. No nation may be perfect, but ours does offer the protections and freedoms to live independently in so many ways. This Independence Day, as I grill out with my family, I also thank the brave people who fought and are still fighting to protect our country. I thank the great minds who led us to liberty so many years ago. I thank all the people from our past, present and future that make our country strong and just. Happy Fourth of July. Kevin Kelly (senatorkevinkelly.com) represents the 21st Senatorial District, which includes all of Shelton and parts of Monroe, Seymour and Stratford. He can be reached at 800-842-1421 or Kevin.Kelly@cga.ct.gov. Follow him on Twitter @21KevinKelly and on Facebook at facebook.com\/senatorkevinkelly.