Fireworks, flags, cook-outs, and parades. They are all part of our annual Fourth of July celebrations. But, what exactly do we celebrate on July 4 every year besides a day off of work? What, does it really mean to be American?
Officially known as Independence Day, our nation commemorates the July 4, 1776 adoption of the Declaration of Independence, which ultimately gave our country sovereignty from Great Britain. In short, that’s when the United States of America came to be. It’s our birthday so let the parties begin!
It all started during the American Revolution when, on July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence declaring the United States independent from British rule. After the historical vote, Congress turned its attention to creating and adopting a “Declaration of Independence,” which was prepared by a committee headed by Thomas Jefferson. The document was formally approved on July 4.
In addition to Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin signed the Declaration, and in a remarkable coincidence, both Jefferson and Adams, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence to later serve as presidents of the United States, died on July 4, 1826 – the 50th anniversary of the Declaration! Yet another founding father who became president , James Monroe died on July 4, 1831, becoming the third president in a row to die on the famous date. And then there was Calvin Coolidge, our 30th President, who was born on July 4, 1872, and, so far, is the only president to have been born on Independence Day.
So, there’s a brief history of how America got started, but what does it mean to be an American today? To me, it means freedom. Freedom to pursue dreams, freedom to worship, and freedom to choose our leaders. It also means responsibility. The responsibility to contribute to society. The responsibility to be decent and honest. Sadly, as Newton Minnow once said, “we’ve gotten to the point where everybody’s got a right and nobody’s got a responsibility.”
Our nation is somewhat internally at war today, and although I am a lover of British accents and all things royal, especially Britain’s royals, I can say I am grateful to all who fought for our independence and am proud to be an American. The current push to make us more European and to globalize not only our commerce but our laws, frightens and concerns me. Trade that creates domestic jobs, yes. Treaties that place us under some sort of global rule, no.
So, as we grill our hot dogs and watch our fireworks, let’s remember that first and foremost we celebrate our democracy and that we are truly “one nation under God.” Let’s also keep in mind those prophetic words of Thomas Jefferson, “A democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.” Finally, let’s not forget those who today are fighting for us around the world.
Happy Fourth everyone. Have fun, be safe, and stand proud!