Every Fourth of July, I feel obligated to do something patriotic. Something beyond eating corn on the cob and running around the backyard with a shrinking sparkler licking at my fingers. Today, I read through the Declaration, and through Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty or Give me Death Speech.”
I also thought, as I pedaled through the heat, about how it must have felt to be part of the Continental Congress during that fateful summer. Britain loomed, colonists bickered, and dozens of the brightest men of the era sat in a sweltering chamber creating a country.
Here’s a video I found randomly. Watch it. Really. It has Morgan Freeman, but it also has Mel Gibson, Whoopi Goldberg, Kathy Bates, Edward Norton, and a few other people you will recognize. And they’re reading the Declaration of Independence.
Whenever I read through my copies of Little House on the Prairie, I’m astounded at the rigor of schools in that day. There’s a part, and I can’t quote it exactly, when Laura and her family attend a Fourth of July celebration in town, and there’s a reading of the Declaration of Independence. It is mentioned that Laura (then about 15), and her sister Carrie (probably 11), had memorized the Declaration years ago, as if knowing a long and serious governmental document by heart was small potatoes. Just imagine if schoolchildren today were expected to memorize something like that, if instead of parades and fireworks, we had recitations of the Declaration at our Fourth of July celebrations.
I hate to preach the old “true meaning of the holiday” sermon, but there it is. Democrat, Republican, Independent, Agnostic, Atheist, Christian, Muslim, etc. etc. etc. This is your country, and this is how it was built. We should take the time to remember that, at least on the Fourth.