The Fourth of July is about the very Idea of America.

We forget this sometimes. America wasn’t founded on a government, or a political system. All of that came much later.

It began with this beautiful idea, that our rights come from God. It began with this idea of a society based on these natural rights, on liberty, freedom, free enterprise, self-determination.

It is our duty to preserve this idea—this Great Experiment—and just as important, to preserve the spirit in which it was conceived.

That sacred pledge made on this day, they made it to each other. Everything depended on that. Everything after—every success, every sacrifice—came from that common cause.

Tocqueville thought this was the genius of our country. “Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds constantly unite,” he wrote.

Every day, we unite in some small way. We forget this too.

We give back in our communities, we look for ways to solve problems, we look out for neighbors in need. Those things—civility and civil society—they are what connect us to one another. And by doing our part—whatever it may be—we keep this great experiment going.

So, celebrate America today. Fire up the grill. Light up the sky.

And conjure up the Spirit of ’76, too. It is an awesome, awesome thing.

Paul Ryan Paul Ryan is the Speaker of the House of Representatives and represents Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District.