The 4th of July is a day of picnics, parades and fireworks. Since Greenport (my town) hosts the Memorial Day parade, two other local towns–Southold and Orient–will be having parades this morning. They will be filled with boy scouts and girl scouts, clubs, fire trucks, vintage cars, people riding on horseback, home-made floats, high school bands and a few pipers. Like many of my neighbors, the American flag has been hanging outside the house for most of the weekend in honor of our holiday.
Even though the 4th of July is a federal holiday, in many ways it is a civic celebration. Out freedoms come from the ground up, because it is local individuals and groups of people who speak up, and begin movements and revolutions.
So on this 4th of July, I would like to salute first all the people who volunteer and pitch in. Cities, towns and villages across America depend on volunteers who give of themselves to make America and the world a more just, safer and kinder place.
I salute the veterans, who served and suffered to to protect the freedoms we enjoy.
I salute the people who organize, and agitate, demonstrate and write, to raise awareness to an issue of justice or respect.
I salute good neighbors. People who shovel the snow for the elderly in the winter, invite the whole block for a potluck supper, watch out for one another, remember when someone is sick or alone and call or reach out.
Finally, I salute the men (and their families) who took pen to paper and signed our Declaration of Independence. July 4 marks the day when the document was adopted by the Continental Congress, it was actually signed on July 2 and for some months thereafter.
John Adams’ famous letter of July 3, 1776, in which he wrote to his wife Abigail what his thoughts were about celebrating the Fourth of July is found on various web sites but is usually incorrectly quoted. Following is the exact text from his letter with his original spellings:
The Second Day of July 1776, 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. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not. (The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784, Harvard University Press, 1975, 142).