“The Boomer” is a column that targets adults nearing retirement age and those already in their “golden years.” It will also promote reader interaction by posting e-mail responses and answering reader questions. E-mail your questions tothefoxboomer@gmail.com.

"It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from. The ability to triumph begins with you. Always."

That’s what Oprah Winfrey once said, and it’s worth remembering around Independence Day. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, starting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. Across the country, I think it is safe to say, all baby boomers remember the movie Yankee Doodle Dandy starring James Cagney, who won an Academy Award as George M. Cohan, a playwright who was born on the Fourth of July.

For those who have lived a lifetime as an American, it’s an important time to think about opportunity. We talk a lot about planning for retirement – working, saving, spending. For some of us, it’s easy. For others, it’s hard. But, truth is, we have the opportunity to succeed. It’s up to us. In other countries, retirement is taken care of. You get a government-sponsored pension and some savings here and there, but it’s hard to make the most of your retirement. Here, life can be what you make it. Because we’re Americans.

It wasn’t always that way, and we saw how the country changed. In the summer of 1963, I was 13 years old when John F. Kennedy began his journey to tackle civil rights. In the early 1960s, we had a new, young, charismatic president whose administration was affectionately known as Camelot. I thought it was the best of times -- maybe, maybe not.

The night Kennedy addressed the nation in response to the National Guard being sent to protect African-American students at the University of Alabama, the president declared that a moral crisis existed in America and requested congressional action to expedite desegregation through legislation. In his address, he said our nation “was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principal that all men are created equal and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened." Boy, was I proud to be of Irish-American heritage that night. It took a lot of guts to stand up to all the people who believed in segregation.

That year’s Fourth of July, I realized that all Americans should think of the words “independence” and “freedom,” regardless of race, color or national origin. Almost 50 years have passed since JFK addressed the nation on equal rights and civil rights for all Americans. We have come a long way.

Just this week, Forbes named Oprah the most powerful celebrity. She was born in a rural Mississippi town into poverty to a single mother. She experienced great hardship during her childhood including being raped at the age of 9, becoming pregnant at 14 and losing her son in infancy. Today, she is a world-renowned talk show host, producer and philanthropist.

The point is, we chart our own path here. Whether it’s retirement, family, work or play, we have the independence to make our decisions and the opportunities to execute our plans. It’s worth remembering this time of year.

E-mail your questions tothefoxboomer@gmail.com.