In 1776 John Adams wrote his wife, Abigail, describing his feelings about the Declaration of Independence. While he thought that July 2 might be the day of celebration, his sentiments were for the event, not the date. He said, the day “will be the most memorable Epocha, 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 commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
Both Adams and Thomas Jefferson who were instrumental in the framing of our great nation were to die on July the 4th in 1826 within hours of each other as the “Great Anniversary Festival” was being celebrated on its 50th anniversary.
As we celebrate the 4th of July, Americans all over the world should reflect on the evolution of our great nation. Those who find fault should remember the good that has come from the longest standing democratic republic in the history of mankind and the dramatic impact that we have had on freedom in the world.
The United States struggled for independence for almost a decade. With independence came responsibility. Since our founding some 245 years ago the United States has been looked to by freedom loving people the world over. We have become a beacon for hope and opportunity. We are the only nation in history to fight among ourselves to overcome the scourge of slavery. Over 620,000 Americans lost their lives to correct this wrong. Throughout history we have allied in European and the Pacific struggles to save their people from dictators, despots, communism and nazism. We have proudly supported democratic efforts worldwide. Who can forget the voters in Iraq who proudly displayed their purple fingers after voting in their first free national elections in their nation’s history?
Yet, as we celebrate, we must also look to work to be done. Fifty-six years ago Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in what has become known as the “I Have A Dream” speech, also said the following, “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.”
While Americans celebrate we must also remember that we fall heir to both pride of independence, the blessings of liberty and that promissory note. The “Great Festival” envisioned by John Adams should be accompanied by “Solemn Acts of Devotion to God” as well. We must remember that Independence, freedom, and opportunity comes at a cost, a cost that all must share. The debt does not just rest on those in uniform. It is owed by every American who reclines and is sheltered under the tree of liberty that is provided by the United States of America.
Quentin M. Thomas