As everybody who knows me probably knows, the Fourth of July is my favorite American holiday. As a naturalized American citizen, I (quite rightly) had to work to achieve citizenship, and I value it. I also love summer, fireworks and the sheer joyfulness of the occasion. It is rather splendid that America has its own birthday party every year, and this is our 243rd one!
As every American knows, our fantastic country first celebrated the birth of American independence from Great Britain on July 4th 1776. However, not every American over the years has agreed that this should be the date of the big celebration. John Adams, our nation’s 1st Vice President under George Washington who went on to become our 2ndPresident, was one such American. He firmly believed that July 2nd was the correct date on which to celebrate the birth of American independence. That was the date that the Continental Congress actually voted for independence. He felt so strongly about this subtle difference that he refused to attend events celebrating on July 4th as his own personal protest!
Fireworks are also closely associated with both independence from England and with President John Adams. A few days before America broke away from England, he wrote to his wife Abigail that Independence Day will represent “…the most memorable in the history of America. 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; bonfires and illuminations (fireworks) from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
John Adams and the third American President, Thomas Jefferson, were both founding fathers, and both staunch advocates of American Independence. While they were often rivals, they are both icons of the American Revolution and were key to the birth of the American dream. They both wrote extensively, and both worried about the future of the nation on key issues such as slavery. In perhaps the greatest coincidence of all time, they also both died on July 4, 1826— the exact 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. The 90-year-old Adams’ last words were reportedly “Thomas Jefferson survives”. He was wrong about his 83-year-old friend by about five hours.
The oldest 4th of July parade in America was started in 1785 and takes place in Bristol, Rhode Island, a typical coastal New England town. Situated at the end of a peninsula near the Rhode Island-Massachusetts border, Bristol covers only about 10 square miles, and its population is fewer than 25,000, but more than double that number today attend the parade.
It was not until 1870 that the U.S. Congress made July 4th a federal holiday, and in 1941, it was extended to incorporate a paid holiday to all federal employees.
US military bases celebrate Independence Day with a gun salute at noon, called the “salute to the union.” Troops fire one gun for each state in the United States and remember the troops that have fought and died over the years, decades and centuries for our continued freedom. There is a lot more information at www.history.com
Since we are on a presidential theme this week, I will leave you with a quote from another one of my heroes, the 16thPresident of the USA, Abraham Lincoln: “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth”.
God bless America and Happy Fourth of July today!
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