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By Julio C. Urdaneta*

There will be a barbecue with friends, fireworks, and a day off from work. But for me, this Independence Day will be far different from the ones I have celebrated since I moved to the United States 13 years ago.

It will be the first one I celebrate after becoming an American citizen. And I couldn’t be more proud.

As a young, idealistic journalist, I came to the United States from Latin America eager to find a new vision of the world, a new canvas where I could practice my craft. And I found much more than that: I found a vast nation with millions of people with interesting lives: Heroes, mavericks, entrepreneurs, eccentrics, dreamers, believers – all of them full of stories waiting to be told and shared with the world.

I was challenged, taunted, to get out my comfort zone and understand this new world that now I call home. The energy this country radiates forced me to grow, to question myself and to let go of many misconceptions and beliefs that shaped my life up to that point. I was born again here.

It takes brave men and women to envision and create a nation and make it prosper, just like our forefathers did. And as a testament of its strong foundation, one of the greatest things about the United States is that it continues to evolve, to grow, to discover itself. It is never static – it embraces the new, the bold, and the unique.

And we, Americans, old and new, reap the benefits of it. Here, we are free to thrive. We have the freedom to be who we are, and to expand ourselves to the infinite. The world is at our fingertips: We live and learn in one of the most diverse countries of the planet, where all cultures, faiths, and schools of thoughts coexist. We share strong values, an extraordinary work ethic, and a commitment to innovation.

The journey has not always been smooth. It has had its dark moments. Yet, the hope for a better future never diesSolidarity is an intrinsic American value, as are inclusion and acceptance. 

For all of this I thank you, America. And for showing the world, for showing me, the real me. I am proud to be called your son, and here I am to honor you.

So, what is your story? What does it mean to you to be an American? Feel free to share it with USA.gov on FacebookTwitter or Google+, using the hashtag #MyUSA.

* Julio writes for USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov

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Phone: 718-956-8218

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