Independence Day is over, but that doesn't mean the fireworks are going to stop immediately.

There are probably still hundreds if not thousands of various, recently purchased consumer fireworks that Kentucky residents plan to set off or send skyward today, tomorrow or in the coming weeks.

Americans definitely know how to party -- loudly -- when it's time to celebrate the founding of our country. But being loud and colorful and noisy is not the only way to express pride in your home.

Go ahead and express your pride in American freedom with fireworks. But make sure you also put your pride to good use through real work.

Express your pride in America's natural beauty and amazing wildlife by cleaning up the mess that your fireworks leave behind. You can even take that pride a step further and clean up after someone else less patriotic than you who left their Independence Day litter lying in a park or a parking lot, where it could be fatal for local animals or get washed by rain into area creeks and streams.

Express your pride in the American value of unity -- "e pluribus unum" -- by caring for your neighbors, who may have small children with early bedtimes or pets who flee from loud noises; or who may experience painful flashbacks to wars in which they fought when they hear explosions.

If you don't know whether your neighbors are pet owners, parents or veterans, embrace the American value of community and get to know them. As Americans, we value people of all shapes, sizes, colors and political stripes and we know that diversity of experiences and viewpoints is what gives us strength and resilience -- yet another thing we can all take pride in.

As you get to know your neighbors, you may find that some are in need -- or perhaps that you are in need and your neighbors can help. Helping each other out in times of need isn't just an American value, it's a Kentucky value. Our state motto is, after all, "United We Stand, Divided We Fall."

There are clearly many ways to show your pride in the U.S.A. Done right, expressions of pride can have positive, lasting impacts that make the country better and help keep it a country that's worth having so much pride in.

Fireworks look nice, but the sparkle fizzles quickly.

Taking real pride in your country by taking responsibility for making it better -- that's something that will stick around for a long time.

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