Light the candles, tune the instruments, warm up the vocal cords! A very special day is upon us. It is time to celebrate a birth, a unique birth, and a birth that in many ways has lit human hope, kindled human aspiration and fired up a few revolutions.

Happy birthday, America!

As I was born a Brit, I have no idea how I would have greeted the events of 1776. Would I, like Edmund Burke, the great Anglo-Irish orator and member of Parliament, have seen the emerging difference between the rugged, inventive, self-motivated farmers in the American colonies and the then-subservient masses in Britain? Or would I, like Lord North, prime minister of Great Britain, and his monarch George III, have regarded the colonists as traitors?

The farmers, these landed gentlemen, were not only creating a new country destined for world leadership, but they also were forming what would come to be the universal middle class, where accomplishment would triumph birth.

When I was a boy in faraway Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), we worshiped all things American, although we were devotedly British. My father, who worked with his hands, had read that American artisans could enjoy a middle-class life. Awesome. A local publisher, Bernard Woolf, told me that the United States led the world because, for example, you could study ice cream making in college. I do not know where he got that idea, maybe from something he had read about Howard Johnson’s and its 28 flavors of ice cream.

As teenagers we fantasized about owning American products, including cars complete with fins and automatic drive. When the first automatics showed up — which were American, of course — the dealership in Salisbury (now Harare) was mobbed by people anxious to see this marvel.

When I moved to Britain itself, however, I heard the first criticisms of the United States — heard for the first time that it was a harsh, cruel place. That was the socialist line that affected many Labor Party followers. Still, no one suggested that the United States was anything other than a land of opportunity.

I will bet that if you stood anywhere in the world and said, “I have a bunch of green cards here for the first takers,” you would be sacked like a quarterback on a bad day.

America is still the place to be if you want to cast off the bonds of limitation which abound around the world, whether they are social, economic or religious. This is the land of opportunity — opportunity to buck convention and pursue all manner of dreams.

Happy Fourth of July, America. Happy birthday, Land of Dreams.

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS. He wrote this for

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