Why are we celebrating Independence Day, USA?
Americans will be part of the USA’s 240th birthday celebration, each of us in our own way. Some people travel while others crank up the grill in the back yard. In the South, bodies of water are popular because July 4 is one of the hottest holidays we celebrate.
I watched a video recently about how little my fellow countrymen know about July 4, Independence Day. The people questioned—a random sample of beach goers—didn’t know basic facts about what I consider the greatest nation on Earth.
No one knew our country was founded because the Continental Congress in the thirteen colonies declared their independence from Great Britain and her king in 1776—technically this was a war of secession.
Not all the colonies voted to secede. Military.com broke down the vote:
“On July 1, 1776, the Continental Congress reconvened, and on the following day, the Lee Resolution for independence was adopted by 12 of the 13 colonies, New York not voting. Discussions of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence resulted in some minor changes, but the spirit of the document was unchanged.
The process of revision continued through all of July 3 and into the late afternoon of July 4, when the Declaration was officially adopted. Of the 13 colonies, nine voted in favor of the Declaration, two — Pennsylvania and South Carolina — voted No, Delaware was undecided and New York abstained.”
The US Census showed an estimated 2.5 million people lived in the newly formed United States in July, 1776. Census said 321.4 million was “the nation’s estimated population on July 4 last year .”
As the US eyes the November presidential election in 2016, many Americans are looking to downsize a government that started relatively small in accordance with the Constitution and grew into a behemoth in need of reforms critical to the wellbeing of the republic. This isn’t the first time an outsider like presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump resonated with the public in a phenomenon the political aristocracy completely failed to envision.
In 1901, 115 years after the Declaration of Independence led to the creation of the USA, Republican president Theodore Roosevelt chose to think outside the Washington box, winning two terms in the White House. Roosevelt came up with his own declaration of independence, as then-popular magazine Puck noted in a cartoon. The US Library of Congress captioned the cartoon titled ‘His Declaration of Independence’ by Udo J. Keppler:
“Illustration shows President Theodore Roosevelt nailing a “notice” to the door of a federal building that states: “I will appoint no man to office, even if recommended by the organization, unless he is wholly qualified for the position he seeks and is a man of integrity.” Four men in the lower right, one labeled “Machine Politician” and another labeled “Party Heeler”, cringe before the notice.”
Theodore Roosevelt is still considered one of the nation’s greatest presidents. There’s a striking bit of history on him and the Republican Party at the US Presidency Project. Among the declarations in the GOP Party Platform that year was this bit of history many Americans may not be aware of:
“The Republican party has been for more than fifty years the consistent friend of the American Negro. It gave him freedom and citizenship. It wrote into the organic law the declarations that proclaim his civil and political rights, and it believes to-day that his noteworthy progress in intelligence, industry and good citizenship has earned the respect and encouragement of the nation. We demand equal justice for all men, without regard to race or color; we declare once more, and without reservation, for the enforcement in letter and spirit of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the Constitution which were designed for the protection and advancement of the negro, and we condemn all devices that have for their real aim his disfranchisement for reasons of color alone, as unfair, un-American and repugnant to the Supreme law of the land.”
As my family prepares to celebrate Independence Day with backyard doings and hopefully some swimming if it doesn’t rain, I’ll take a moment to appreciate all the great men and women who came before my generation, a number of them willing to place their lives on the line for country. Come nightfall, the crazy Floridians all around me will set off fireworks throughout the night. I have never lived in a state where fireworks were so popular.
I will take a lawn chair to the front yard and I’ll have a front row seat for all the commotion and exploding art firing up the sky. And I will, not for the first time, thank God for my circumstance of birth. I certainly won the geographic lottery by being born in the USA, and after that, the South.
Happy Independence Day to you and yours—be safe as you celebrate.
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/July 1, 2016)