Today — Friday, July 1 — many recreation professionals are or will be involved in Fourth of July parades, fireworks and barbeques, either personally or as part of their job.
Millions of people will enjoy these festivities and forget about the troubles of the world for a few hours.
But I have to wonder, how many people will think about the Declaration of Independence: how it was conceived, how it was birthed and how it guides our actions to this day. This world-changing document, after all, is the reason we celebrate the Fourth.
All thirteen colonies unanimously approved the wording of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia during a session of the Second Continental Congress.
The Declaration was the seminal document that paved the way and set the stage for the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, which would ultimately become the law of our new land — and still is.
The Declaration rallied and united Americans in the 13 colonies and those who supported the freedom concept abroad. It, indeed, is at the very heart of what we call the “American Spirit.”
It is easy now to look back and cleanly reiterate the forming of the concepts and words that comprise the Declaration, but in reality it was a messy and contentious process; like a town hall meeting on steroids. In essence, the Declaration is a summary of complaints against British rule.
The road that led to the Declaration was not a short one. It started as far back as the French and Indian War, which lasted from 1754 to 1763 and put Britain into such debt that the Crown began to demand more funding from the colonies. This led to taxes on many items such as sugar and tea. Then the Crown demanded that colonists lodge and feed British soldiers at their own costs.
Secret organizations sprang up to defy the taxes and other perceived British excesses. At first, the defiance was intended more to change British policy than to become an independent country. However, when King George III labeled the colonists as rebels and hired thousands of Hessian mercenaries to fight them, it galvanized the resistance to a call for independence.
The Declaration was the American proclamation to the world that clearly stated our grievances, our intentions and our allegiance to the principles of freedom, equality and the basic rights of man. It is undoubtedly one of the most important documents in our history and helped form the independence drives of many other nations as well.
For 235 years, these principles have lit the way for generations of patriots who believe that our founding fathers had it right.
Some might say that the American Spirit as envisioned in 1776 is no longer alive. I disagree, and contend that the spirit beats in the heart of every American who longs for peace, freedom from oppression, and equality for all men and women.
But with those rights come responsibility and eternal vigilance against those in the world who would dismantle them if they could; and yes, there are people in this world who would do it.
It is for that American Spirit that we celebrate July 4th and it was the Declaration of Independence that kindled this spirit.
On this Independence Day, I encourage everyone to find a copy of the Declaration, in print or online. Take a few minutes to read it to yourself, to your children, to your parents, to your siblings or to your friends. As you watch parades and the “bombs bursting in air” at fireworks displays, give a thought and a word of praise to the founding fathers for envisioning the magnificent life we have here in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.
Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine, is Director of Leisure Services (parks, recreation, library) in Peachtree City, Ga. Contact him at (770) 631-2542 or e-mail email@example.com