The changing landscape in our community reminds me that the foundations that built this country are still just as important today.

It’s long been said that America is all about rugged individualism, and that is true to some extent. Yes, being as self-sufficient as you can be is an admirable trait, but it only takes one so far. People need people in order to really live and nowhere is that more true than in our communities.

Back when our ancestors landed on our shores, they didn’t head off into the woods to build a log cabin single handedly. No, they banded together with other families in small communities. They worked together, struggled together, cried together, and celebrated together. They shared what they had when they could and expected others to do the same. Early Americans had to live this way. Otherwise, they would never have survived.

Today, something very similar is happening across America. We’re in the middle of a massive community revitalization movement after a long, hard recession and chaotic period that turned our world upside down. Much like our forefathers and foremothers, people found themselves lost in uncharted territory. Jobs disappeared. Unemployment skyrocketed. Infrastructure crumbled. Once-bustling downtowns deteriorated. Young people moved away in search of better lives (and who can blame them).

Now, in small towns all across America, communities are charging ahead and doing things to raise the bar. And we’re not doing it as a nation of rugged individuals. We’re doing it in small, tight-knit groups as we embrace the spirit of cooperation, collaboration, and partnership.

Community leaders, business owners, and citizens are deeply engaged and working together to breathe new life into our towns. We’re encouraging entrepreneurs to start new ventures. We’re choosing to eat, drink, play, and shop locally. We’re showing up at street festivals, volunteering, and supporting the institutions that feed, educate, and heal our community.

We are still the land of opportunity. People are finding they can still start a business, make a living, and provide jobs to others. While a strong local government is part of every vibrant community, in most cases, private industry and small business are the backbone. Thriving local business communities lead to long-term prosperity.

So here’s what I believe: Real independence is about working hard, playing hard, building strong relationships with family and friends, and being happy in the place you call home. It’s about choosing the kind of life we want to live and making the most of it.

This Independence Day, I hope you’ll take a moment to be grateful for your family, friends and community, and reflect on what you might do to make it better. Get involved. Find a cause that speaks to you. Share your ideas. Help those in need. Join together with like-minded neighbors and work to make something happen.

The spirit of community is the spirit that built America and that spirit will make and keep us strong.