Friday, July 02, 2010

July 4th Celebration

Celebrating the Fourth of July is one of the most important summer activities for many of us. We get to take a day off to picnic or barbecue with family and friends and watch fireworks!

But July 4th is so special because it is Independence Day, a holiday celebrating the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In 1776, founding father and soon-to-be president, Thomas Jefferson wrote what is now the United States’ most famous and cherished document to give a list of grievances against King George III of England.

It was written to justify the colonies breaking away from the mother country and becoming an independent nation. Revised by Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, the Declaration of Independence was signed by our founding fathers and accepted by Congress on July 4,1776.

But the spirit of Independence Day is not only about the United States officially becoming a country. It’s about celebrating the values that the country was founded upon. The Declaration of Independence was written with the theory that every person has inherent rights, called “self-evident truths” in the official document. It reads: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” In other words, "Independence from England meant Dependence on God" for the young nation.

Harry Rubenstein, a curator of American politics at the Smithsonian Institution, wrote that Independence Day celebrates those very ideals of democracy, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and is for anyone who finds faith in the words “all men are created equal.” It is a holiday to remember and honor those first Americans who made sacrifices to create the Republic and then defend it over the years. We all should understand it is also important to remember that as Americans, we should continue to embody the values our country was built on.

When the Declaration of Independence was signed, John Adams believed it should be commemorated in a celebratory manner. He wrote to his wife Abigail, “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival... It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

For nearly twenty years, our son Terry and his wife Sheila have hosted an outstanding and popular Independence Day pot-luck dinner at their home for friends and family with food, shared fellowship and fun by eating and visiting together and a ring side view of the City of Rome's outstanding “illuminations” … or fireworks!

The Star Spangled Banner
Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

(Composed by Francis Scott Key, "In Defense of Fort McHenry")

History: In 1814, about a week after the city of Washington had been badly burned, British troops moved up to the primary port at Baltimore Harbor in Maryland. Francis Scott Key visited the British fleet in the Harbor on September 13th to secure the release of Dr. William Beanes who had been captured during the Washington raid. The two were detained on the ship so as not to warn the Americans while the Royal Navy attempted to bombard Fort McHenry. At dawn on the 14th, Key noted that the huge American flag, which now hangs in the Smithsonian's American History Museum, was still waving and had not been removed in defeat. The sight inspired him to write a poem titled Defense of Fort McHenry. The poem was eventually set to music that had originally been written by English composer John Stafford Smith for a song titled "The Anacreontic Song". The end result was the inspiring song now considered the national anthem of the United States of America. It was accepted as such by public demand for the next century or so, but became even more accepted as the national anthem during the World Series of Baseball in 1917 when it was sung in honor of the brave armed forces fighting in the Great War. The World Series performance moved everyone in attendance, and after that it was repeated for every game. Finally, on March 3, 1931, the American Congress proclaimed it as the national anthem, 116 years after it was first written.

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