Hands down, the most patriotic Fourth of July fireworks display I’ve ever experienced exploded over the Washington Monument while I was on the South Lawn of the White House.
The longest stretch of my Secret Service career was spent working in Washington D.C. with assignments including the protection of President Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush. One year, there was a patriotic picnic at the White House. Costumed founding fathers were milling about. I’m getting to the point in life where some details are fuzzy, but I will never forget Benjamin Franklin enthralling patriots, young and old, who were waiting in line to get ice cream.
Today, like many of you, I’m gathering with family and friends to enjoy a barbecue and wait for fireworks to light up the night sky.
For many years, although I should have, I never really thought about how our nation’s founding fathers set this great country on the path to independence almost 250 years ago. A nation that has long been a beacon of freedom and prosperity to people around the world.
Admittedly, we are far from perfect and face challenges. We must always look to the future and work to resolve our differences, but today we should look back and honor the Stars and Stripes that represent the United States of America.
My mind mostly wandered during history classes, so I was compelled to do a little research to get my facts straight. We celebrate the 4th of July because it represents the signing of the Declaration of Independence. 13 colonies declaring their independence from England and ultimately becoming the 50 United States of America.
-We’d been fighting the American Revolution since April 1775.
-Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence in June 1776.
-The Continental Congress agreed to declare independence on July 2,1776.
-On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence. (As someone who spent five years revising a manuscript, I’m impressed a group could agree to all of the edits in two days.)
-The Declaration wasn’t delivered across the pond until November 1776. (Talk about snail mail.)
-In 1817, John Adams complained that America seemed uninterested in its past.
-The deaths of both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams on July 4, 1826, may have helped to promote the idea of July 4 as an important date to be celebrated.
-Over the next several decades, 4th of July celebrations became more common.
-In 1870, almost a hundred years after the Declaration of Independence, Congress decreed July 4 to be a national holiday as part of a bill officially recognizing several holidays, including Christmas.
So here we are…July 4, 2022…hopefully enjoying today’s festivities with a look back to the past…and our eyes and hearts focusing on the future of this wonderful nation’s next 250 years.
As Lee Greenwood so eloquently sings… “God Bless the USA.”
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