Happy birthday, America!

Two hundred and forty-two years ago, a collection of British colonies took on the most powerful military force on the planet by declaring independence from the Crown and the right to self-govern. The idea was that all men were created equal and are afforded the God-given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The founders, though extremely brilliant, were also imperfect, as most failed to recognize the need to extend those rights to women and the African slaves they claimed as their own. Those issues would have to wait for another day.

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and yes, even Ben Franklin "owned" slaves at the time they advocated for liberty for themselves. John Adams found the idea to be repugnant and did not partake in the business of slaves.

The Declaration of Independence was debated and approved by the Continental Congress at what is now refered to as Independence Hall in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. It was signed two days later.

The Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol Building (Photo by Barry Richard)

America is a nation of laws and not men, a point often hammered home by John Adams in 1780 as he crafted the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts the world's oldest functioning written Constitution. It served as a model for the United States Constitution, which was written in 1787 and became effective in 1789. This premise has prevented tyranny from taking hold here as it has in other places.

The Lincoln Memorial (Photo by Barry Richard)

The American Revolution 242 years ago sparked the imagination of the world. The light of hope and freedom that ignited way back then still burns bright today and is a beacon to millions who await their turn to embark upon their own great American journey. The debate that rages over illegal immigration is just further evidence of the burning desire for freedom and the American dream.

The Jefferson Memorial (Photo by Barry Richard)

America is not a perfect nation, but it's the best there is and ever has been. Still youthful America continues to grow and change. It remains the model for liberty and freedom around the world, and the best hope for the future.

The White House (Photo by Barry Richard)

Take a moment between burgers and fireworks this Fourth of July to reflect upon the history of this great nation and those who dared to turn their desire for self-governance into reality for all of us.

Benjamin Franklin's grave, Philadelphia (Photo by Barry Richard)

It may have taken some time to get it right and perhaps we haven't gotten there completely yet, but we continue to work at it.

The dream lives on.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.