Okay, okay, I captured your attention with that headline, right? Relax, I’m not about to call for the abolishment of Independence Day, or, as most of us refer to it, the Fourth of July—quite to the contrary. If anything, I’d like to encourage an even greater respect for this most important of national holidays. However, I do question whether or not most Americans today really reflect upon the true inspiration for setting this day aside for celebration..
Independence Day has only been officially celebrated as a federal holiday since 1941, but it has been unofficially celebrated since July 4, 1776. That was the day that the Declaration of Independence was actually signed by the members of the Continental Congress (the vote itself took place two days prior). The document officially declared America’s independence from “Mother England,” and signaled the birth of the longest lasting democracy in the history of the world.
But what does the average person think of when the Fourth of July rolls around? Fireworks, parades, hot dogs, hamburgers, time off from work, or a big sale at the local shopping mall are the most common answers. Of course, we also see it as a time to be with family and friends, and to feel “patriotic.” And that’s fine.
But how many of us actually think of it in its true historical context, or reflect upon the events that led up to that seminal day in our nation’s history? Not very many, except for the “old timers.” But how many young people think of it in that fashion? How many are familiar with Paul Revere’s famous ride, or the Battle of Bunker Hill, or the Boston Tea Party? I’ll wager that most high school seniors today cannot identify any of those historical events. And that’s sad.
So, I ask again, is Independence Day still relevant today? Of course it is! But will it continue to be relevant in the future? That is the question we should be asking. Sadly, the number of Americans who understand the “true” significance of what happened on that special day, nearly 250 years ago, is declining with every passing year. But I know of a way to ensure that doesn’t happen. This Independence Day, all of us should make a concerted effort to spread the word to our children and grandchildren about this holiday’s importance to our nation. Maybe if we do that on every Fourth of July, we can hope that its relevance will continue to be recognized, and that Independence Day will continue to be celebrated for all the right reasons.
Happy Fourth of July, America!
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(Footnote: My grandmother, Eugenia Perrone Natale, an Italian immigrant, was born on the Fourth of July, late in the 19th century. However, as a true patriot, she understood the significance of the date, and the celebration of her birthday always took a back seat to that of our nation’s. Undoubtedly, she would second my remarks, were she still alive today. Happy birthday, Grandma!)
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